Air NZ changes mind and will support winter festival

By Ryan Keen, Celia Crosbie

Dave Dobbyn promises some upbeat numbers to keep the crowd warm. Photo / APN
Dave Dobbyn promises some upbeat numbers to keep the crowd warm. Photo / APN

An SOS from Queenstown's Winter Festival has been answered - by a sponsor that recently ditched it, and leading Kiwi musician Dave Dobbyn.

In February, Air New Zealand ended its longstanding contract with the annual 10-day event - the Southern Hemisphere's biggest winter party - but has confirmed 11th-hour financial support.

Graham Budd, chief executive of festival owner and local regional tourism organisation Destination Queenstown, says Air NZ is now back on board as the official festival airline.

The deal was done at annual tourism pow-wow Trenz in Auckland last week, Mr Budd said.

"It's not to the same level but that's okay. We're very happy with the outcome."

It's part of a double dose of good news for the festival this week with organisers revealing Dobbyn has been secured as the main act at its free outdoor opening-night show on June 21.

Dobbyn says he didn't take much convincing to agree to play.

"I'm really looking forward to it. Queenstown's one of my favourite parts of the country. It's beautiful."

Dobbyn plans an "up-tempo" set to keep the crowd warm from the freezing temperatures: "We'll pull out some rockers and give people a good time."

The festival, aimed at letting the world know Queenstown is open for winter, last year attracted 45,000 visitors and is estimated to have injected $57 million into the local economy.

Tickets went on sale this week for the festival, which includes a glitzy ball, charity boxing night Thriller in the Chiller, and an already sold-out comedy gala featuring leading Kiwi comedians. It also includes other zany community events on the ski slopes such as suitcase races plus a polar plunge into freezing Lake Wakatipu called The Birdman.

- Mountain Scene

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