Winter Festival yet another cancellation

Covid-19 has claimed another event.

On Thursday, Destination Queenstown interim chief executive Ann Lockhart announced the 2020 Queenstown Winter Festival had been cancelled.

In its 46th year, it was due to be held from June 18 to 21.

Ms Lockhart said it was the "pragmatic approach" but a difficult and disappointing decision.

"We did consider postponing the festival, but it would be almost impossible to pick a date which we could confidently confirm.

"I want to thank [new festival director] Harald [Ulriksen] and his team for all the work that has been undertaken to date.

"We expect the festival will be back bigger and brighter in 2021."

Mr Ulriksen said while the situation was unfortunate, his team was looking to run some events this spring to help reinvigorate the resort, and would come back bigger and better for the 2021 festival.

"It’s disappointing but we’re all facing a very large situation here with Covid-19 and I think it’s the right approach that the [Destination Queenstown] board has taken.

"The bigger picture is, really, where we’re at and the safety of all of our potential visitors and our staff.

"My thoughts go out to everyone that's affected by the current pandemic.

"That’s top of mind for everyone."

Winter Games NZ chief executive Marty Toomey, though, said the event was, at this stage, running as planned from August 21, to September 5.

"We’re planning all contingencies ... we’re looking at all different options.

"But we’re definitely still planning as if we’re going ahead.”

Alexandra Blossom Festival organisers were also hoping the threat of Covid-19 will have ended by late September allowing the event to go ahead.

Event manager Martin McPherson said earlier this week the festival committee was a taking a "business as usual" approach for the next four to six weeks to assess the impact of lockdown and isolation on the spread of the coronavirus.

"If things improve we’re going to have to have a really big party in the spring."

The question of "if"things will improve still looms large.

Mr McPherson said the committee was mindful of tough times for the entire country going into winter — but if the situation became safe come spring it would give people more reason to celebrate and that put more onus on the committee to ensure the festival captured that mood.

While still assessing the situation, spending on preparations so far had been low, he said.

"We’ve not spent any money unless we now we’re going to recoup it."

The festival’s sponsors continued to offer their full support and were committed to this year’s festival, he said.

The festival is New Zealand’s longest-running, having started in September 1957 and taken place every year since.

The 2020 festival is scheduled to take place from September 25-27.

Meanwhile, Winter Pride was now "on hold".

Director Martin King said things "will have to look very different" to go ahead with Queenstown’s 2020 event, scheduled to begin at the end of August.

"We need to rework the festival as it stands today and just pause for now — all current events won’t happen as planned.

"Then, come June, we may be able to look at what options we have for a potentially smaller, maybe only domestic festival."

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