Winter in Queenstown is super exciting. Aside from the best skiing in New Zealand and apres-ski offerings all season, the highlight is the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival held at the end of June.The festival is suited to everyone from old to young and has attracted thousands in the 40 years it’s been running. Unfortunately, the 10-day, 60-event festival will be downsized in 2017, so some of the following events may be kicked off the schedule. No doubt, the opening party downtown by the lake will remain as it’s a firm favourite. The concert stage hosts several musicians, there’s a plethora of delicious food and drink stalls and piece de resistance, the best firework display in the region exploding early in the evening.
But don’t think it’s only glitz, glamour, media and ski bunnies out and about. At its heart, the festival is a community affair with traditional local events like the street parade complete with floats, MacPac Golden Mile run, and the day on the bay including the flying birdman challenge (where folks in costumes and floats launch off the pier into icy waters for the prize of being airborne longest). There’s also the undy 500 (navigating an obstacle course in your undies!), as well as the Dog Derby for local farmers and their trusty friends, daily street performers and the Mountain Mayhem day including the Auckland Airport Suitcase race (think people flying down the mountain on a suitcase).
It’s the crazy antics that are the most fun. As well as the above, the Pig and Whistle 10-day challenge is a hit, one that will also have to downsize for next year, which might be a relief as crazy participants have to complete a challenge each day most often to do with being utterly cold or embarrassed. There’s also the mountain bike on snow race, and Downtown Day sponsored by The Hits 90.4 that includes the drag race (which usually attracts all the real estate agents) and the hospitality race (who can make a bed the fastest!).
But as well as locals participating, the festival attracts national and international masters of cuisine, musicians (the Michael Hill International Violin Competition for example), comedians, sports teams and athletes (dodgeball, skiing and ice hockey, frisbee golf, skinning), creative artisans (markets and carnivals) and businesses who use the opportunity to mentor and meet such as at the Business Lunch held by the Chamber of Commerce.There’s always a comedy show and the annual winter ball.
Last but certainly not least let’s not forget the kids. Children will love the magic of the Winterfest, including the Kids Snow Day at Remarkables Park Shopping Centre, where they dig for treasures, The American Express Winter Wonderland Ice Rink erected over the Village Green, and the Street Parade where many local kids are involved in building and appearing in the floats.