Town puts on a hard act to follow

How do we top this? That was the question Alexandra Blossom Festival organisers were pondering after a massively successful 60th birthday celebration over the weekend.

Fine weather, a bumper crowd, great atmosphere and masses of activities combined to make a memorable occasion, organisers and patrons said.

"What on earth do we do next year?" event manager Martin McPherson asked.

Going by ticket sales, about 15,000 people went to Pioneer Park after Saturday’s festival parade, he said.

The Fun Bike Club display in the parade featured a wide range of unusual bikes. Photo: Craig Baxter.
The Fun Bike Club display in the parade featured a wide range of unusual bikes. Photo: Craig Baxter.
Thousands lined the town’s main street to watch the parade of trucks, vintage vehicles, bands, floats and mini-floats, called "florreys", built around a supermarket trolley.

In the park afterwards, there was something for everyone with a stage featuring children’s entertainment and another featuring a series of musical acts.

The Magnificent Seven band, fronted by Jordan Luck, Peter Urlich and Eddie Rayner, had the crowd up and dancing. 

Mr McPherson said the feedback he was still receiving about the festival yesterday was "brilliant".

"People loved it; town is still buzzing. The stallholders were rapt with the day too. And when I walked into the pub with the band [Magnificent Seven] after the festival, everyone just burst into applause, so that was pretty cool. The band is very keen to come back again."

Festival chairwoman Clair Higginson said she thought the crowd was one of the biggest  at a blossom festival.

"Thanks, everyone, for making the 60th one of the most memorable festivals."

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper said it was the best festival he could recall in his 32 years in the district.

"From the senior queen contest through to the great night at the round the clock race and Mardi Gras, through to the procession and party in the park, it’s been great; just rollicking good fun."

The festival’s survival was threatened in 2010 after it was declared insolvent following three successive years of losses.

A bail-out by the Vincent Community Board and support from the community meant it was able to continue.

It has been back in the black for several years.

This year’s people’s choice winner, decided by public vote, was the Alexandra Volunteer Fire Brigade’s Time Train.

Keith Nicholl designed and built the train and carriage, which was depicted going through a tunnel on the Otago Central rail line.

"I came up with the idea in the middle of the night."

He was unsure what would happen to the structure now.

"It’ll be interesting," he said.

Alexandra Primary School’s undersea scene, called Finding Dory, won the best floral float, Breen Construction’s Alpine Reef Waterwheel was the top contemporary float and The Terrace School’s Turns Back Time was the best school float.

The Combined Lions Clubs picked up the award for the most innovative/creative float with Titanic.

The Valley Playgroup won the best florrey award  for its fairy-tale carriage and horse, and Shoes Unlimited won the Bain Cup for best window display.

The winner of the 2016 festival queen award was Caitlin Turfus (17).

Sarah Vilela (16) was second and Kylie Wilson (18) was third.

The first festival queen, Karen Peterson, of Alexandra, was one of about 30 former festival queens who were special guests at the weekend festivities.

Police said there were three arrests, all involving Alexandra men, on a relatively trouble-free weekend, considering the large crowd that attended the festival. 

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