Festival 'all about community'

Blossom Festival event manager Martin McPherson, of Alexandra, sits on a ferris wheel in Pioneer...
Blossom Festival event manager Martin McPherson, of Alexandra, sits on a ferris wheel in Pioneer Park yesterday, as workers set up entertainment there. Photo by Leith Huffadine.
Martin McPherson is feeling quite relaxed.

He likens his current state to that of a swan on a lake - calm and serene on the surface, but paddling like crazy underneath.

It is, after all, one day until this year's Alexandra Blossom Festival begins in earnest.

The 14th festival he has organised has not been without its challenges, he says.

One of those was finding funding for tomorrow's fireworks display.

But its success all comes down to the efforts of those in the community, without whom it would not happen.

''We're really pleased that the fireworks are back ... the community has really risen to the challenge.

''We needed 5k ($5000) and I think we have about five point five. It has come from all quarters - some substantial cash donation, and a lad from Terrace School did a gold coin collection and raised $20.''

Tomorrow's events, including the fireworks display, the Round the Clock Race, and the Mardi Gras on Rivers St would be all about community, Mr McPherson said.

This year, Mr McPherson hoped to double the 1200-1500 people who attended the fireworks display in 2013, and organisers expect between 8000 and 10,000 people at Pioneer Park on Saturday during and after the grand parade.

In its 58th year, the festival will feature a new event combining floats and shopping trolleys, the Florreys, with 26 entries, and Saturday's celebrations would be joined by a steampunk group of 25 from Dunedin.

''We are always trying for something different here and there.''

Mr McPherson suggested a list of events he thought would stand out during the festival, including the musical All Shook Up, and the garden tour.

However, the best part was seeing people enjoy themselves, he said.

''I think the buzz I get is just seeing the kids, mums, dads and grandparents out enjoying themselves and being a family and being a community.''

Festival chairwoman Clair Higginson picked events such as the mardi gras, garden tour, grand parade, and ladies' golf tournament as some of her favourites from the schedule.

Everything was on track for the celebrations and organisers had shifted from a governance role to operational.

''From a committee point of view it's now in the hands of the event manager and volunteers,'' she said.

Mr McPherson said the festival was insolvent five years ago and ''pretty well doomed'' before the community stepped in and kept it alive.

Sponsorship from Contact Energy had also helped and without it there would not be a festival, he said.

''I think everybody deserves a big pat on the back for keeping this event going for 58 years.''

Festival events continue until Saturday, October 11, when the WoolOn fashion event, sponsored by the Otago Daily Times, hosts the awards ceremony.

The MetService predicts fine weather and a high of 16degC tomorrow and sun and cloud for the weekend, with highs about 15degC.

A full list of events is at www.blossom.co.nz/events.


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