Residents came out in droves to witness the first Winter Nights, Winter Lights event on the waterfront, proving Tauranga is not just a summer city.

Last night and on Saturday night, crowds were treated to a laser light show and a fire show, with performances alternating every half an hour.

Tauranga City Council event delivery co-ordinator Luke Schroder said the waterfront was "as packed as it could be" for Saturday's event and expected the same for last night's sessions.

"It was a real extravaganza. It was magical to see the city come out for a free event in winter time. It has kind of been a shift in mentality. What's predominantly been a summer city, to be doing something in winter is really exciting."

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It had a real wow effect for the kids. The light show was my favourite part ... We could see it wherever we were on the waterfront ...

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Mr Schroder said about 5000 people hit the waterfront throughout the night on Saturday and he expected something similar last night.

The event was a one-off funded by the council but there was scope for the event to grow.

"This is a new concept for Tauranga CBD as far as we know. We want to do more stuff in winter, we want to encourage other event organisers to do the same.

"We will go back and look at what it will look like as a long-term event."

The first part of the night was predominantly attended by families with children, but Mr Schroder said as it grew later, the families dropped away and more adults and young people showed up.

"It has such a broad age range that it appeals to. All those local businesses were absolutely packed as well."

Papamoa's Christian Froehlich, who took the photo of the fire dancers, said he had a great night at the well-organised event.

He turned up about 6pm with his family and stayed the whole night.

The only downside was long lines waiting for the food, he said.

"There was enough space to bring a chair or blanket and the kids could play in the playground behind us. I really enjoyed it.

"It had a real wow effect for the kids. The light show was my favourite part, it was pretty unique for Tauranga. We could see it wherever we were on the waterfront so we could move around."

Mr Froehlich believed the laser lights would be a great addition to the fireworks display at New Year's Eve off the barge and hoped this was something the council would look at.