Queenstown Winter Festival
June 17 2019 by Rae Baker l Festival Director
On the cusp of the 45th Queenstown Winter Festival, it’s easy to feel reflective about what it means to our place. My family are South Islanders. I have pictures of my grandparents on the Crowne Range, sitting under the Remarkables, how they honeymooned in Eichardt’s and grew up with stories of my father’s holidays here. It was a different place back then with only around 1300 residents I think. My own early days in Queenstown hark back to the table dancing at Chico’s and the Casbah but more recently I’ve taken on the role of Director of the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival; something that has been part of our community annually since 1975. Since its beginnings, Winter Fest has reflected the essence our place; our pioneering nature in the annual Dog Derby, our adrenaline fuelled appetite in Birdman or mountain biking on snow, our unparalleled hospitality, our melting pot of a community and our sense of fun. Festival celebrates our winter starting, our mountain resorts opening and creates opportunity for our community to come together and celebrate our beautiful spot in the world.
The Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival is By Queenstown, For Queenstown, Showcasing Queenstown. Queenstown is at the core of everything we do and always will be. From an events industry perspective, it’s difficult to express how lucky we are to have something that reflects our place so uniquely – just like the New Orleans Mardi Gras, Munich Oktoberfest, Napier’s Art Deco Festival, Wellington’s WOW and Auckland’s Pasifika - we exist to celebrate our unique spot in the world and that has a huge value attached to it, attracting visitation, smoothing out seasonality and boosting the local economy.
However, that’s not why we exist – our community is. In a climate where we often feel like we’re struggling against rising costs, congested traffic and increased rates, it’s important to have something that belongs to us. I’m aware that some may feel that Festival has become commercialised and therefore not ours anymore. I ask that you take another look. All those logos we sport are local companies. The staff and volunteers we develop are locals. The suppliers we use are local. The enormous support we get from our business community from supported bed nights to prizes for our participation events. Festival provides four days of free entertainment in arguably the most beautiful setting in the world. We wouldn’t exist without Queenstown. It is everything we are. On Thursday our annual celebration kicks off with a beautiful Matariki Hikoi around our streets, our festival Mihi Whakatau, the annual business lunch operated by the Chamber team, the classic Hospo Race – this year supported by Steamer Wharf and music from Kiwi legends Trinity Roots and Ladi6. The fun continues through to Sunday with 40+ events to get amongst from lakeside to mountain top. We invite you to fully immerse yourself.
Rae Baker l Festival Director