An estimated 6000 people crowded into Warkworth’s Baxter Street on Saturday night, July 20, for the grand finale of the 2019 Mahurangi Winter Festival of Lights.
Organiser Murray Chapman says better weather, greater publicity and a general growing awareness of the festival led to the street and neighbouring grassed area becoming absolutely packed.
Festival-goers enjoyed familiar events from last year – a laser light show, ice skating and fun in the snow, together with entirely new attractions such as a cannon spewing foam – burying children and teenagers alike – and a pumping disco in the Old Masonic Hall.
Meanwhile, a slew of food trucks served a rich variety of tasty treats throughout the night.
Murray says more retailers got involved this year, lighting up their shops and making the town look amazing.
“I have to keep telling myself this is only our second year, but the festival is growing faster than anticipated. It’s capturing people’s imagination at a time when not much else is happening,” he says.
Murray says it helped that the event was incorporated into region wide Elemental AKL festival, giving the Mahurangi events even greater exposure and drawing visitors from Auckland and Northland.
He says about 1000 children had a go on the ice skating rink alone, more than will participate on a single day at the Easter Show.
Murray says accommodation providers, restaurant and café owners he has spoken to report that they were all extremely busy.
“The end goal is not only to bring smiles to people’s faces, but also to bring business into the area,” he says.
Murray says he is pleased that other festival events in Leigh and Snells Beach also attracted a good turnout, and he hopes that in future years places like Omaha, Matakana, Kaipara Flats and Scotts Landing will come on board to make it a truly regional festival.
Beth Houlbrooke had the best illuminated balloons.
Toru-Maree Solomon, 3, shows off her dance moves.
One Warkworth intern Ayla Walker fends off a barrage of snowballs.
Craig Lees and daughter Matilda, 8, check out ice skating for the first time.
Taylor Turner, 12, and Charlize Graham, 13, frolic in the foam.