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American Express Queenstown Winter Festival celebrates 40 years in style!

May 30, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

The Southern Hemisphere’s biggest celebration of winter is turning 40 and marking the occasion with a calendar full of activities that recognize and celebrate the colourful history of the Winter Festival.

2014 is the 40th anniversary of the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival and will be celebrated with ten packed days of entertainment and events. From 20th -29th June, locals and visitors alike will welcome the arrival of winter in true Queenstown style.

Recognising the significance of the 40 year milestone, Festival Manager Lisa Buckingham is delivering a programme that celebrates the history and longevity of Queenstown’s unique event, as well as announcing the arrival of winter 2014.Night Owl - Article Banner

“In 1975 a small group of locals started what is now the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival because they thought winter was a great excuse to throw a party.  It turns out they were right, and it’s now the Southern Hemisphere’s most renowned and popular winter event,” says Ms Buckingham.

Graham Budd, Chief Executive of Destination Queenstown, said that after 40 years the Festival was steeped in history but at the same time had consistently reinvented itself to be relevant and engaging and that’s what made it such an ongoing success.

“Queenstowners are proud of their Festival. It’s a time when the community and local businesses come together to celebrate not only the start of winter, but also who we are and what makes Queenstown special.  Forty years of the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival is an incredible achievement and we wanted to celebrate that with our locals as well as our visitors,” says Mr Budd.

There will be a packed calendar of events and activities, both old and new, with some of the original iconic events like the DB Export Dog Derby that have been around since the event’s beginning. Other long term favourites like The Hits 90.4 Drag Race in Downtown Day and the hilarious Hits 90.4 Birdman contest will also be featuring again. A newly created visual display called “Our Story: Celebrating 40 Years” has been developed specifically for the 40thcelebrations and will be erected on Marine Parade for the duration of the Festival. The Festival’s story from 1975 until now is told through photos, memorabilia and recollections of the people who made the Festival what it is in 2014.

Other Winter Festival favourites also feature in the 2014 programme and pay tribute to the anniversary by celebrating1975, the year that the first Winter Festival took place.

  • The big 4-0 celebrations will kick off with a giant 40th birthday cake at the opening of the American Express Winter Wonderland Ice Rink on Friday 20th June, followed closely by the American Express Opening Party and Fireworks which will start with a series of local acts playing their favourite collection of songs from the last 40 years.
  • For those keen to continue on the stroll down memory lane after the American Express Opening Party and Fireworks, SKYCITY will be hosting a 70’s night party with LA Social Club playing all the hits of 1975.
  • The next day the American Express Festival Street Parade gets the treatment with the theme “Step Back in Time” with floats challenged to represent the era forty years ago.
  • Those ready for a giggle at the American Express Comedy Debate will be entertained on Sunday 22nd as the comedians battle the moot that ‘Forty is the new Thirty’.
  • 1975 will come alive with fun and physicality on Earnslaw Park when the 70’s Disco Workout gets underway on Monday 23rd. The mass workout will revisit the music and styles of the era the festival was born.
  • The laughs will continue when Festival drag queens from the past 40 years will be ‘dragged’ out of retirement to compete once again in The Hits 90.4 Drag Race that’s part of the Downtown Day on Wednesday 25th June.
  • On a more thoughtful theme the Gen I Business Lunch will be reflecting on the past 40 years as participants look ahead to the next 40 years as they consider the topic, “What Tourism in Queenstown will look like in 40 years,”.
  • the Catalyst  Queenstown 2040 panel discussion on Monday 23rd June will discuss the topic “Where Will The Snow Be In 2040.”

Achieving 40 years of Winter Festival is a momentous feat and the Queenstown community can be proud the Festival has stayed true to its roots as an event for the community, by the community.

“Winter starts here,” says Ms Buckingham, “and after 40 years we’re only just getting started!”

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