The bright lights, fireworks and star attractions of the 43rd Queenstown Winter Festival will shine even brighter on Queenstown and its annual winter celebrations coming straight after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

“Each year the Queenstown Winter Festival is the spark that ignites Queenstown’s winter season with celebrations and fun for all,” said Lisa Buckingham, Queenstown Winter Festival Director.

“This year’s Festival will be explosive with the formerly 10 day programme compacted and concentrated into four action-packed days.”

The event programme across the four days sees many returning favourites – the Monteith’s Dog Derby and Dog Barking, iHeart Radio Day on the Bay featuring The Hits 90.4 Birdman, Comedy Night, Macpac Mountain Bikes on Snow, Real Journey’s Friday Night Party & Fireworks, SKYCITY Ball, the Opening of Night Skiing, Old Mout Dodgeball Championships, the Queenstown Village Rink, Pechakucha presented by Macpac and the Auckland Airport Carnival.

“What has captured many festival goers attention are the new events, four straight days of free live music from some of New Zealand’s best, the new après ski programme and two heart-warming celebrations of our community’s spirit,” said Ms Buckingham.

The new Queenstown Winter Festival Welcome will see two waka paddled on dusk into Queenstown Bay to be greeted by Ngai Tahu kaumatua, runanga and a kapa haka group. Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will then accompany the group, walking around the waterfront to the Main Stage on Earnslaw Park.  Following this the inimitable Anika Moa will entertain the crowds.

“The new Queenstown Winter Festival Welcome on the new opening night programme will bring together traditional Maori culture in a unique Queenstown environment in a way not seen at the Festival before,” said Ms Buckingham.

This year’s Festival Hub on Earnslaw Park will host live music, entertainment, a pop up bar and food vendors from noon until nine every day. Some of New Zealand’s finest established and up and coming bands including Anika Moa, The Phoenix Foundation, Brentwood, Nomad and The Shambles will play free concerts for the thousands expected to make the most of the four days and nights of carnival like atmosphere.

The Après Ski Dining and Bar programme is a new addition to the Festival and brings together great ideas for culinary treats across the four days of festivities including luxury lunches, whisky tasting masterclasses, and a winter feast. Although some will choose to go a little Winter Festival crazy with a bungy and cocktail mix, a rib-eating contest or a “Glow in the Foam” party.

The Real Journeys Thank You Cruise and the Community Night Walking Parade will celebrate the best of Queenstown’s community spirit according to Ms Buckingham. The Real Journeys Thank You Cruise was dreamt up as a way to show appreciation for those who volunteer – by a Festival that relies on more than 70 volunteers every year.

“We were overwhelmed by the response when our call for unsung heroes from around Otago and Southland drew 129 nominations,” said Ms Buckingham. 

Ninety community focussed people and guests will now be hosted on the TSS Earnslaw in the company of Real Journey’s founder and community stalwart Olive Hutchins and Mayor Jim Boult before being the front seat viewers of the traditional Friday night fireworks display.

Another new event, during the Auckland Airport Carnival, is the Community Walking Parade; a celebration of all the cultures that live in Queenstown.

“Hundreds of local people have signed up to brighten up the winter’s evening by walking, singing and dancing their way around the waterfront”, said Ms Buckingham. 

And there are still some surprises that Festival organisers have kept to themselves.

“People will just have to come and see what those surprises are for themselves,” said Ms Buckingham.

In its 43rd year the Queenstown Winter Festival is still just as much about community as it was when it was first hatched back in 1975 according to Ms Buckingham.

“Queenstown Winter Festival is created by the people of Queenstown for the people of Queenstown and the visitors they welcome to share their special place,” said Ms Buckingham.  

Winter solstice may denote the darkest days of winter, but Queenstown Winter Festival will shine brightly for all those joining the southern hemisphere’s biggest celebration of winter.

 The Queenstown Winter Festival celebrates the start of winter as only Queenstown can. From 22-25 June 2017 from lake front to mountain top Queenstown brims with locals and visitors, street parties, music, comedy, family fun and wintery themed madness. Visit www.winterfestival.co.nz and sign up to the Friends of Festival mailing list and follow the Festival on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.