Weather smiles on 'fantastic' opening

As the first drops of rain fell in Arrowtown late yesterday afternoon, the final pints were poured on the Village Green, closing the first full weekend of events in the 30th Arrowtown Autumn Festival.

Festival director Toni Stockham said she was ''just astounded'' at the turnout for the opening weekend, with a record crowd of about 12,000 enjoying perfect autumn conditions on Saturday for the market day and street parade.

Hundreds more descended on the town yesterday to see the action in the annual Pub to Pub Challenge, in which nine teams of four battled for top honours down Buckingham St, before heading to the green for the Pie and Pint Festival, where they got their fill of gourmet pies and boutique brews during the afternoon.

Ms Stockham said the first weekend of the festival had been ''fantastic''.

''We couldn't have asked for better weather. We are just astounded [at the support].''

On Saturday, Buckingham St was packed to the brim with people taking in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the market day and street parade.

The library green was jam-packed with stall holders and those on the hunt for a bargain, while Buckingham St was filled with food stalls and other vendors, as well as street entertainers.

Street performer Adrian Kirk drew gasps from the crowd as he juggled fire on a unicycle, while the ''Wonkey Donkey man'', Craig Smith, had the younger members of the family in a dance-off at Buckingham Green.

An aerobatic display by a stunt plane was the cue for people to find a viewing spot on the footpath to take in the action from the 30th-anniversary street parade.

Led by vintage cars, Central Otago town crier Paddy-Ann Pemberton and the Queenstown and Southern Lakes Pipe Band, participants included the parade-winning Arrowtown Scouts, lobbing sponges and fallen leaves across two trailers at each other; Bikes4Fun, featuring Patrick Star being pushed by SpongeBob SquarePants; stilt-walkers, a steam engine and the Buckingham Belles.

Yesterday, cooler temperatures greeted the 36 competitors entered in the Pub to Pub Challenge, with three heats held before the final.

The final began with one person from each team drinking a beer through a straw, eating two dry Weetbix and then blowing up a balloon, with the next competitor required to knit 20 stitches - a task that appeared to prove difficult.

Arrowtown rugby coach Hayden Finch was the first to complete his knitting, giving his team a massive advantage.

After one fed spaghetti to the other from behind, the Arrowtown rugby team raced to turn Cam Beale into a cling-film mummy, carrying him to the finish line - and victory.

At the Pie and Pint Festival, people sampled a variety of boutique beers, washing down gourmet pies.

Ms Stockham said Masterchef New Zealand Arrowtown contestants Jaimie Stodler and Bec Stanley judged Wild Earth's pulled pork pie the best, with awards also going to Arrowtown businesses Jonesy's Cafe & Bar, the Fork'n Tap and the Arrowtown Bakery.

The festival continues until Sunday.