Queenstown all set for Winter Festival

Contractors erect scaffolding on Brecon St yesterday in preparation for tonight's evening's Rail...
Contractors erect scaffolding on Brecon St yesterday in preparation for tonight's evening's Rail Showdown. PHOTO: GUY WILLIAMS
Two hundred flaming torches borne through Queenstown's streets, followed by waka ama gliding into the bay at dusk.

Those are the arresting sights set to give a strong cultural flavour to today's opening of the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival, now in its 44th year.

In the second year of the festival's condensed format, the resort's residents and visitors can look forward to four days of parties, fun on the snow and a stellar line-up of musicians and comedians.

Festival director Rae Baker said after working so hard to put the festival together, her team were "excited to be sharing it with the community".

Fine weather was forecast for this evening's opening and for the rest of the weekend, although she advised people to "wrap up".

"I'm Scottish - there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing."

The opening event, the Matariki Torchlight Procession starting at 4pm, would be a celebration of New Zealand culture, she said.

The procession would end on the beach at Queenstown Bay, where they would greet the waka ama, followed by a powhiri and kapa haka by Wakatipu High School pupils.

At 5pm, two teams of eight skiers and snowboarders - including Winter Olympic medallists Zoe Sadowski Synnott and Nico Porteous - will battle for the "Legends of Steel" title, with tricks on a rail and three truckloads of snow from Cardrona skifield.

That will be followed by a Tiki Taane gig on a new waterfront stage by The Bathhouse.

Tomorrow the festival will hit the mountains with an all-day programme of snow skate slalom, dog derby and dog barking events at Cardrona. Back in Queenstown, a line-up including dodgeball and live bands will be capped off by a fireworks display over Queenstown Bay from 7pm.

The Rafting Rampage, Undy 500 and Birdman events will be highlights on Saturday, while Sunday will bring the Mountain Bikes on Snow and Tour De Cardies races at Cardrona.

The Black Seeds and The Feelers will be rocking the Bathhouse Stage on the waterfront.

• Road closures: Duke St, from Man St to Shotover St, closed at 5am today and will remain so until 2am tomorrow for the Legends of Steel event.

Several roads will also be closed for tonight's Winter Festival welcome: Rees St, Marine Parade (from Rees St to the Memorial Gates), Beach St (from Camp St to Shotover St), and Cow Ln.

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