The stage is being set, fireworks prepared, volunteers
organised and performers are packing their bags in readiness
for the official opening of Queenstown's 40th Winter Festival
on Friday night.
What began as a small community celebration in 1975,
providing the 5000 locals with something to do during the
quiet winter months when there were no tourists and many
businesses were forced to close, has morphed into the biggest
celebration of winter in the southern hemisphere.
The 10-day event now attracts about 45,000 new and returning
festival-goers from around the world each year, injecting an
estimated $57 million into the local economy.
This year's festival includes several events which have been
on the calendar for all 40 years, for example, the
Hospitality Race, formerly the Waiters' Race, and the Dog
Derby at Coronet Peak on Thursday, along with the return of
some old favourites, including the Comedy Debate.
Director Lisa Buckingham said this year's festival was not
only a celebration of winter, but of the community which had
kept the event running for 40 years.
''It's going to be a really big year.
''We've got so much to celebrate ... make sure you get
''There's going to be something for everyone - it's an event
for the community, so hopefully the community gets in behind
The party will get under way on Friday night as thousands of
people head in to the Queenstown CBD for the opening party
and fireworks, beginning at 5.30pm, with local bands
performing hits from the past four decades, before a
fireworks display befitting the 40th anniversary lights up
the sky at 7pm.
Following that, ''quintessential Kiwi rockers'' the Exponents
will take the stage to set the tone for the next 10 days.
The opening weekend will see the Golden Mile street race
before the festival street parade at noon on Saturday, and
ticket holders dressed to the nines to attend the Narnia Ball
on Saturday night at the Queenstown Memorial Centre.
Sports fans also have their pick of action, with the Wakatipu
rugby team taking on Alexandra at the Queenstown Recreation
Ground at 2.30pm, while at 7pm the puck will drop at the
Queenstown Ice Arena for the southern derby, where the
Southern Stampede will take on the Dunedin Thunder in the
first game of a double-header.
On Sunday, action will include the Day on the Bay, featuring
the Birdman, Jet Sprints, Splash and Dash, Paddleboard Race
and Undy 500 before the Comedy Debate on Sunday evening, at
which Paul Ego, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, Michelle
A'Court, Jesse Mulligan, Jacinda Ardern and Oliver Driver
will debate ''40 is the new 30'', kept in line by moderator
Ms Buckingham said people could also take a stroll down
memory lane and take in an outdoor exhibition on Marine
Parade, telling the story of the festival over the past 40
Eichardt's Tavern Revisited is planned for the Queenstown
Memorial Centre next Friday, where the old tavern is being
recreated allowing people to experience Queenstown's
''greatest pub phenomena''.