Stalwart to pass Christmas tree-lighting baton

After 15 years of determining when Dunedin’s Christmas tree in the Octagon will be lit up for the festive season, Marilyn Anderson is handing over the assignment.

The Dunedin City Council community events co-ordinator is due to retire on Christmas Eve and, before she goes, her tree-lighting responsibility will be passed on.

Vicki Lenihan is leading tonight’s event, which will feature carol singing and entertainment, led by MC Tahu Mackenzie, as well as the countdown to illumination about 9.30pm.

This year’s tree is new, too, after the last one had its own stint of 15 years.

Ms Anderson (64) will be attending, but not running the show.

Marilyn Anderson has often led Dunedin’s ceremony for lighting up the Christmas tree in the...
Marilyn Anderson has often led Dunedin’s ceremony for lighting up the Christmas tree in the Octagon, but not this year. Her three decades with the Dunedin City Council are drawing to a close. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR

Her 33-year career with Dunedin councils is coming to a close and she is looking forward to travelling with her husband in their caravan.

Food and wine festivals may well be on the itinerary.

Ms Anderson said she had a sense of pride from helping to organise events, which ranged from New Year’s Eve concerts to chocolate carnivals and the Middlemarch Singles Ball.

"I’m excited about retiring but I think as next year rolls around I will miss it," she said.

She described herself as a structured person, suited to working in government.

Her career began with the police, working as a civilian on the National Law Enforcement Data Base, better known as the Whanganui Computer.

Her council career began with the Silverpeaks County Council. She joined the Dunedin City Council after the 1989 local government reforms.

Ms Anderson was initially a personal assistant for the director of works and became part of the economic development and tourism team, then the events team.

Her first big event with the events team was Millennium Eve and she worked under Islay McLeod.

"She effectively trained me, and when she left, I got her job."

The Middlemarch biennial singles ball began in 2001.

Ms Anderson joined the organising committee and she recalled the influx of women dressed to the nines who jumped on the Love Train from Dunedin.

The event took off, and she remembered some men from Gore stole a march on their rivals by joining the train trip and getting in some chat-up time.

The footwear was of doubtful suitability in a paddock, but Ms Anderson said for someone observing from the sidelines, the occasion was hilarious to watch.

Other highlights included hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and Dunedin’s 150th celebrations in 1998.

"There have been many great experiences and friendships built."

Tonight’s event is scheduled to start at 6.30pm.

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