A milestone this Christmas

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Alan Smythe

EVENT CREATOR: Executive producer of Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, impresario Alan Smythe at his home in Wharatane Bay, Waiheke Island.

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It's a "laid back Waiheke life" for Alan Smythe but the impresario has been more than a little busy of late.

The Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park executive producer is getting ready for the biggest live audience event in New Zealand at the Auckland Domain and in Christchurch on December 8.

Next year will be the Auckland event's 20th anniversary and the 19th for Christchurch.

Alan has raised a staggering $8 million for children's charities over the last 25 years.

It started in 1987 when he came back from living in England and Europe.

"I set up The Great Investment Race to raise funds for kids' medical research."

Then it was the Dragon Boat Races, raising money for the Life Education Trust around the country.

The first Opera in the Park at the Domain was in 1997.

"It was a free public event with collection boxes that have helped 10 different charities over the years."

Symphony Under the Stars, Showtime, and Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park are also Alan's work, among a list of other high-profile arena and stadium productions. He was also co-writer of The World's Fastest Indian.

He is able to run business from his home on the Te Whau peninsula because "you can do anything with the internet and a phone these days. Also, I have a small team of wonderful people who work very hard. It wouldn't be possible for me to have such a laid back Waiheke life without them!"

Alan lives a quiet life with his wife Susy Lamb in the picturesque red-roofed cottage at Wharetana Bay.

"According to Dixie Day's history it was the first Pakeha home on the island in 1864.

"We used to stay overnight here and come and scare the sheep out of the house. It was a wreck.

"Then about 18 years ago I heard it was empty and went to see the Rothschilds in New York, who own it, and organised to live here."

That's not Alan's only link to Waiheke. People who lived on the island more than 40 years ago may remember his newspaper.

"I was a journalist and decided with another colleague to start the Waiheke Settler. There was more political discontent on Waiheke than anywhere!"

The pair ran the tabloid publication for a year.

"It was 1968. We'd arrive over from Auckland at Matiatia Wharf on the Kestrel and all the malcontents would line up one by one with their stories. Then we'd go back to Auckland and get it printed at a commercial printer. It was up to 20 pages.

"The only other publication I remember then was Bob Burns' The Good Oil."

Journalism was eventually put aside to pursue large scale free family entertainment events like Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park which provide a platform for emerging and established New Zealand artists.

Coca-Cola see it as "their present back to the people of New Zealand for Christmas.

"We are playing to the third generation now in some cases. The idea is a true old-fashioned show."

Go to christmasinthepark.co.nz for the full programme.

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- Waiheke Marketplace

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