Winter festival project gathering steam

Lit up . . . The group behind Oamaru’s Fire and Steam want to build on the event with a winter festival. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/SONIA MARTINEZ

Some of the drivers behind Oamaru’s Fire and Steam event have a bigger, brighter vision for next winter.

Oamaru residents Derek Golding and Dawn Brown are hoping to rustle up some more helpers from around the Waitaki, to brainstorm ideas for a winter festival.

Mr Golding is an artist who specialises in virtual and augmented reality solutions and has created projection mapping and holographic effects for Oamaru’s Fire and Steam festival. Mrs Brown runs Presence on Harbour gift shop in the Victorian precinct.

Both were part of a community group which took on the running of the Fire and Steam Festival, after Tourism Waitaki pulled its support for the event in 2018.

The intended goal of the festival was to draw people to the area during a time when businesses were suffering from a significant drop in visitor numbers.

The plan was to run the event over a series of weekends, between Queen’s Birthday Weekend and the new Matariki holiday, Mr Golding said.

‘‘I’ve been involved with Fire and Steam since 2015, when it was run by Tourism Waitaki . . . We always felt it was really, really expensive.

‘‘So, for the past seven years, we’ve been talking about something that’s actually a bit more inclusive to the rest of the district, and we’ll get a bigger bang for our buck, so we can actually use the money that’s available, to encourage people to participate, and more businesses to become involved and more community groups,’’ he said.

The team was looking for members of the community to come forward, who had practical skills and could help come up with ideas, Mrs Brown said.

‘‘And next month there’s some events funding we can apply for, so we need to start working on that.’’

Light festivals were becoming increasingly popular around the country, and MrGolding thought that was an idea which could be adopted for the Waitaki.

‘‘My speciality is projection mapping and lighting, so there will be some of that, but it is very expensive.

‘‘A single projection for one night can cost about $6000 to build, so it maybe that, depending on what sponsorship and funds we get, some of that will happen. But there are other ways to light the district that are a lot cheaper.’’

The Lumiere d’Akaroa Festival, for example, used luminous UV lights, and children painted themselves in UV paints, he said.

‘‘That was an excellent idea, it draws a big crowd. Something as simple as that, through to more expensive stuff.

‘‘We’ve got to have a workshop, basically to fling some ideas around, but with local people, to see what they can come up with.’’

 The value of the event to the entire district could be ‘‘immense’’.

Fire and Steam, the first year the community took it on from Tourism Waitaki, drew 6000-7000 people, and that was for one night.

‘‘If we wrap Fire and Steam with a weekend market, or something for local producers . . . It’s a case of, we get some sort of lighting happening across the district, we bring in some ticketing events, such as maybe an ice skating rink; trains up from Dunedin, trains down from Christchurch, to bring people down to actually stay for a weekend.

‘‘We look at itineraries for people to go up the Valley and down to Palmerston, so we get people going through the whole district to help us celebrate the winter.’’

It was hoped to hold a meeting within the next week or so, with a workshop being planned at the Business Hive. Those interested in being involved could email [email protected].nz