Winter festivities, a “real boost” for the resort

Brimming with entertainment, Queenstown’s Welcome to Winter celebrations brought the seaside resort to life this past weekend.

The four-day festival, organized by Destination Queenstown (DQ) to celebrate all the city has to offer during the snowy months, saw thousands of people come out to enjoy the markets, food stalls and performances.

Earnslaw Park was packed with people on Friday evening, their faces turned to a colorful fireworks display which was set off by 3-year-old Benji McGuirk after his mother, Krystle Anderson, won the button in a charity auction in line.

For DQ Managing Director Mat Woods, seeing the Dunedin family come and join in the festivities was central to the event.

“It was so fun to see this 3 year old being in the moment and it was a real highlight to see the local community come out and enjoy the fireworks.”

Surrounding balconies, offices and hotels were also packed with people enjoying the show, which quickly turned into a foreshore party as Mitch James took to the soundstage.

“Another element of Friday, which is pretty cool, is that there were definitely visitors in the area who weren’t aware of the event that was going on…they were like, ‘wow, this’ is amazing,'” Woods said.

On Saturday, the hustle and bustle continued – downtown was busy with Winter Wonderland markets and the Whakatipu Legend Swim, which saw more than a dozen brave swimmers in the lake. While some donned wetsuits and swim caps, others braved the freezing water in swim shorts and bathing suits to swim 500m and 1,000m.

The rest of the celebrations included a Saturday night performance by Boh Runga and the band Stellar, and yesterday the sun rose for a superhero Sunday Ice Skate Party and Queenstown Preschool and Nursery’s Great Family Treasure Hunt.

Although turnout was difficult to put a precise figure on, Mr Woods said bars and restaurants were packed at the weekend, the Earnslaw Park soundstage was “completely full” and the treasure hunt was complete.

“It was just a real boost for the local community, national and international visitors… who just needed something like this to celebrate.”

Acknowledging Queenstown’s recovery would be a long journey and that some businesses continue to struggle with staffing constraints, he said the event showed the demand for Queenstown was still there.

“It just set the scene for the rest of the winter, it’s been awesome.”

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