-- Story by Erin --
July 13-22: Okay, we
admit it. We have been a bit bored lately. I know all of you with regular jobs
are cursing us right now. About 3 weeks ago we heard about Queenstown's favorite
winter event, the Winter Festival (www.winterfestival.co.nz).
The weeklong party, fun events and throngs of people sounded like a good opportunity to
volunteer our services to the community. After we bought tickets to a few of the
events (the big Jazz Night and a photography workshop) one bright sunny day in early July,
we inquired about volunteer opportunities. Jo, one of the event organizers jumped up
and started telling us about how fun it is and the work involved. We filled out our
applications and waited for the call.
"The call" came the
week before the festival and we were asked to attend a meeting of all volunteers.
There we met Vickie Hill, the festival director, festival staff members, our fellow
volunteers (victims?), and started to get to know one another. The briefing was
short but informative. We were in for a week of long hours and non-stop activities.
We learned quickly that this was a very dedicated group of people who were
determined to put on a great event and have as much fun as possible in the process.
Friday the 13th was our first day in action. We knew we were in for a long day when
we had to arrive for the morning briefing at 7:00 a.m. This was a real shock to our
system, as we were not used to getting up before 8:30 a.m. every morning!
That first day flew by; I on
front desk/ticket sales/telephone duty and Chris making deliveries/pickups/odd jobs.
It's a bit exhausting saying "Good morning. Welcome to Air New Zealand
Queenstown Winter Festival, this is Erin speaking" in my best Kiwi/American accent.
I found that many people on the other end of the line just got impatient and
started firing their questions at me even before I completed my phone salutation! I
was somewhat rescued that afternoon when I was asked to staff the festival pass section.
I guess I'm not as good at multi-tasking as I thought I was. I seemed to
prefer the single focus of issuing v.i.p., media and staff passes to cheerful celebrities,
journalists and locals. It was so refreshing to meet celebrities who actually make
pleasant conversation and don't get annoyed that they're not recognized! Seven
o'clock that evening we finally called it a day.
Saturday was more of the same,
starting at 7:30 am, but ended with a real bang. The fun started in the afternoon
with a float parade. There was everything from Scottish and Welsh bagpipe bands, to
a monkey in a canoe on top of a van, to bird-people on stilts, and of course, the famous
Southern Man -- The archetype of the rugged South Island male. Finally that evening
we enjoyed the opening festivities, a great band and a spectacle of fireworks.
Although we were on duty guarding the pyrotechnic area from brainless lookyloos, and
shutting down the Lion's Club beer tent so as not to be in violation of our liquor
license, all were in good spirits and we were treated to a good time.
My poor legs were exhausted
from not sitting down. Sunday I managed to do more damage to my out-of-shape body.
We were part of a 14-member co-ed team participating in the popular Peak to Park
team challenge. It is a multi-disciplined event starting at the top of the Coronet
Peak ski resort, down to town, about 17km in total. Our friend Sally organized the
team, many people we knew and a few we didn't. We couldn't get a corporate sponsor
so Sally decided the team name should be Ultimate Journey in our honor. Sally's
father Dave was the official team assistant, driving the chase vehicle, getting us to our
events on time, snapping crucial photos and our overall cheering section.
The first event was a slalom
ski down the mountain, then a skiing version of a wheelbarrow race (two people, one person
is the wheelbarrow!). Next that team tags the first of five runners
who run relay down the mountain about 8.5 kilometers in total. I was runner number
4. Hey, I thought, its all downhill so how difficult could a 1.6 kilometer run
be? Well, suffice it to say I over did it a bit and, for the next two days, looked
like an 85 year old woman bent over and shuffling along. Runner number 5 tagged the
first of two bicyclists over several more kilometers. The last bicyclist tagged the
3-legged runners (Sharlene and Sally), who in turn tagged the skateboarder, who tagged
Chris the scooter man. All of this ended at the local primary-school field.
After a brief break to reconvene
our team, we were off again participating in yet another wheelbarrow race, tire roll
(Chris easily won this event using one of our enduro motorbike tires), gum boot toss,
newspaper throw, and water balloon heave. Then there was a five-person challenge of
trying to cross a field using two planks of wood and 3 milk crates while no one can
touches the ground. This was followed by a 3-person potato sack race and a golf
ball-on-spoon relay. Not done yet! The other half of our team struggled
through a very tough obstacle course (Chris crossed the finish line first, but credits our
#1 and #2 runners for establishing the lead). Next, one brave member of our team
volunteered for the beer drinking/rice cake-eating contest (finishing last, sorry James!)
and the whole thing finally ended with a 10-question team quiz. Whew! We
didn't finish in the top three. I think we may have finished in 4th place (there
were 9 teams in all). Not bad!
L to R: Erin, Tony, James, Wayne,
Sharlene, Sally, Kris, and Chris
L to R (bottom): Hanan, Pip, Dave, Ashley, and Hillary
As if a full day
of boot camp wasn't enough, we had a full night of live jazz and dancing ahead of
us. The Jazz Night event is one of the most popular in the festival and there were
about 900 people in attendance. It was held at the top of the Skyline Gondola in the
restaurant and made for the perfect setting. There were two floors of action, 4
bands, and good food. Our team cleaned up well and partied into the night.
Among the many highlights of
the past week were the Mardi Gras parade, luge racing, staff drink night, the play
"Dead Certain", the Ball, the sponsor banner (sledding) race, and the festival
wrap-up dinner. These events are where we really bonded with the other staff, along with
just having a plain old good time. We begged Kay, in charge of creative stuff, to be
dressed up for the Mardi Gras parade. Mardi Gras is particularly special to us
because Chris and I were engaged at Mardi Gras in New Orleans over 5 years ago. I,
dressed as a Japanese geisha girl complete with parasol and bird cage on stick, and Chris,
dressed as Mr. Autumn (or grim reaper depending on one's perspective), were thrilled to be
a part of a fantastic parade of dancing, prancing and general silliness. The streets
were heaving with people, just like Bourbon Street in N.O. Later that evening we
danced the night away at the Loaded Hog pub with Sharlene and friends.
Thursday we volunteered to
represent the festival staff in the luge race. Along with another couple Sharon and
Dave (also volunteers) we managed to make a good show of it. At NZ$5 per person it
was a real bargain. The price included the ride up the gondola to the luge
racecourse (with great views of the lake basin below), two training runs and the race
itself. About 60 people turned up for the event. The boys were segregated
from the girls (lucky for Sharon and I). After two warm up runs down the track the
race got under way. There were several heats. Only the first two finishers in
each heat would move on to the next heat. Sharon and I managed to place first and
second in our heat, by luck. Unfortunately for the other two girls in our heat, they
crashed into each other just before the end and Shazzer and I managed to squeeze by them.
The men however, Chris and Dave, didn't fair so well in their first heat.
That night we celebrated our good show at the race with drinks with rest of the staff in
the festival office after hours. The managers know how to keep their volunteer staff
Sunday, the last
day of the festival, was highlighted by a fun banner race down the slopes of Coronet
Peak. Four teams participated, 3 made up of Coronet Peak staff and us -- Budget and
Air New Zealand pulled out at the last moment. Our team included Chris, myself,
volunteer Megan, and Harmony (a local entertainer/clown/face painter). Our sleds
were actually plastic sponsor banners. We started out well and managed to recover
from one 360 degree turn down the run. Our luck changed when we slip into another
180 degree turn and ended up going backwards over a small cliff on the side of the
trail. A bit shaken up and bruised we disentangled ourselves, retrieved Megan's
broken sunglasses, and climbed back up to the trail to finish the race. We finished
dead last and had a good laugh about it.
The Night Glow
on Sunday night
Topping off the week was the
end of festival staff dinner. Vickie, Jo, Kay, Deike, and an assortment of the
staff entertained us with their rendition of a Polynesian dance, complete with fake
coconut bikinis and grass skirts. Our Chinese banquet was followed by a hilarious
awards ceremony. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses with several of the
staff and vowed to meet again. In just one week we managed to forge friendships that
will no doubt last a long time.
Today, Monday, was supposed to
be an official day off for all of the staff. However, it was not to be a sleep-in
for us. At 7:20 a.m. we got a call that there was room for us in a hot-air balloon,
but we had to be at the sight by 7:45 a.m. We scrambled to get dressed and out the
door. We were so glad we took them up on their offer. It was a crisp, clear
morning with fresh snow on the mountains. There were three other balloons at the
sight, all different sizes and colors. We helped the balloonists inflate their
balloons and tried to stay warm while the sun came up. We squeezed 8 people plus the
pilot into the basket and lifted off. What a wonderful feeling it is to float
through the air and watch the world go by. We caught sight of new and wonderful
views of the mountains and ski slopes surrounding us. After about an hour in the air
we landed in a farmers paddock a few kilometers away from our starting point. We
were met by the chase vehicle and treated to champagne after helping to pack up the
balloon. Did we just win lotto?
Now we have this nagging
feeling like we should be going in to the festival office to do.......something.
Wonder how long it will take to get rid of this feeling? Now we only have about 6
weeks left in Queenstown before we leave, and I have a sense that time will fly by.
There's so much left to do, like bungy jumping, some more off-road
riding, and getting full use out of our ski
passes! Plus, getting Chris' F650 geared out!
Spanish classes commence this
week and we hope to be habla'ing español before we leave for Argentina.
2001 -- STAFF