Winter Festival set to go off with a bang

Queenstown Winter Festival director Lisa Buckingham (left) and Cup & Cake owner Jaimie Stodler show the giant cake made to mark the festival's 40th occurrence and 25 years of American Express sponsorship. The cake cutting will be shown on TV3's Firstline programme at noon today, before the official opening of the festival in the resort tonight. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
Queenstown Winter Festival director Lisa Buckingham (left) and Cup & Cake owner Jaimie Stodler show the giant cake made to mark the festival's 40th occurrence and 25 years of American Express sponsorship. The cake cutting will be shown on TV3's Firstline programme at noon today, before the official opening of the festival in the resort tonight. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
Queenstown gets the party started tonight, hosting the 40th edition of the southern hemisphere's biggest winter party.

Tens of thousands of people will converge on Earnslaw Park to to see spectacular pyrotechnics marking the launch of the 2014 Queenstown Winter Festival and the start of winter.

Arrowtown businesswoman, Masterchef NZ finalist and Cup&Cake owner Jaimie Stodler has worked to bake a giant cake to celebrate the anniversary.

Ms Stodler said the cake would be cut at noon today at the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink, which has been temporarily erected over the Village Green.

The blue velvet/vanilla bean cake with cream-cheese butter-cream icing had taken four days, 36 eggs, 10kg of flour, 5kg of sugar, 2 litres of milk and a small mountain of icing to create.

Festival director Lisa Buckingham said the event had grown over the years, from in 1975 being just a small party designed to entertain the 5000 residents in Queenstown during the off-season, to now attracting about 45,000 people over 10 days, and encompassing more than 70 distinct events.

After tonight's fireworks at 7pm, The Exponents will take to the stage.

The festival, which runs till June 29, includes favourites like Sunday's Day on the Bay, featuring several events including the Birdman competition, Wednesday's Drag Race and Thursday's Dog Derby.

Highlights
TODAY
10am-10pm:
Winter Wonderland Ice Rink, Village Green
Noon: Business
Luncheon: What tourism in Queenstown will look like in 40 years, Skyline
5.30pm: Opening Party, Earnslaw Park
7pm: Fireworks
TOMORROW
11am
: Mountainbikes on Snow, Coronet Peak
Noon: Golden Mile and Street Parade, Queenstown CBD
7pm: Ice Hockey: Southern Stampede v Dunedin Thunder, Queenstown Ice Rink
7pm: Narnia Ball, Queenstown Memorial Centre
SUNDAY
7am:
Skin to Summit, Coronet Peak
Noon: Day on the Bay, Queenstown Bay & Earnslaw Park
7pm: Ice Hockey: Southern Stampede v Dunedin Thunder, Queenstown Ice Rink
7.30pm: Comedy Debate: Forty is the new Thirty, Queenstown Events Centre