What started as a small event with a few ski races and lolly scrambles for the kids in 1975, the ten days of Winter Festival are now the southern hemisphere’s biggest celebration of winter.
Festival Manager Lisa Buckingham says that despite the growth over the last four decades, the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival is still a community event that brings everyone together.
“I always look forward to the American Express Opening Party and Fireworks – it brings the local community together and reminds me that the people are one of the things I love most about Queenstown. We’re delighted to have the Exponents kicking off our 40 year anniversary celebrations, too. It’s going to be a special evening!”
The 2014 American Express Queenstown Winter Festival has a calendar packed with more than 70 events and activities, with more than 50 events on the programme being free. There’s something for everyone across ten days of winter-themed craziness.
Amid the usual crazy events, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the 40th anniversary milestone, from seventies-themed events that tip their hat to the inaugural Winter Festival in 1975, through to “Our Story: Celebrating Forty Years”, a photo and memorabilia display telling the story of Winter Festival’s history.
The American Express Festival Street Parade sees floats pay tribute to forty years ago with a theme of “Step Back in Time: Forty Years Ago”, while the more serious Gen-I Business Luncheon sees the world’s business leaders discuss the topic of what tourism in Queenstown will look like in forty years .
Two events have been run annually since 1975; the DB Export Dog Derby and the Waiters Race (now the QRC Hospitality Race). The American Express Comedy Debate makes a comeback as part of the 40th celebrations as do long term favourites like the hilarious Hits 90.4 Birdman contest and the SKYCITY Narnia Ball, all sharing billing with the new must do’s like the Auckland Airport Community Carnival and Comedy Night.
It all starts on Friday, 20 June at 5:30pm, when thousands of visitors and locals are expected to crowd Queenstown’s waterfront to join the American Express Opening Party and Fireworks, the fittingly spectacular annual start to the Festival.
MC’d by local identities Craig ‘Ferg’ Ferguson and Brendan ‘Quilly’ Quill, the event will start with a celebration of local talent performing music from the four decades of Festival. After the fireworks, Kiwi rockers The Exponents perform an hour long set of classic kiwi anthems from their own thirty year career.
American Express is marking an extraordinary 25 years of support for the Festival and is sponsoring the Opening Party and Fireworks, the Festival Street Parade, the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink, Night Skiing and bringing back the Comedy Debate “Is Forty the new Thirty?”.