Nelson's annual arts "marathon" is over for another year, with sell-out shows and "exceptionally good" audiences leaving its organisers grinning from ear to ear.
Nelson Arts Festival director Sophie Kelly said 27 out of more than 40 shows sold out, and others were only five or 10 audience members away.
"That is a great, great result. It's extraordinary," she said.
The $580,000 festival budget was made up of a council contribution, ticket sales and sponsorship, with an aim to break even.
Mrs Kelly said the goal was to equal the 10,500 tickets sold at last year's festival, and - at a guess - sales were up by 1500 to 2000 tickets. "I don't think we could wish for better, really," she said.
Mrs Kelly said her personal highlights included The Party with the Aunties and The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer.
"I watched most shows, which was fantastic. I think there were some great surprises. The Party with the Aunties was definitely a highlight - the sense of being a guest at the party. I thought it came together beautifully. Alvin Sputnik was a real gem. I have seen it before, but loved it all over again."
The festival's three-week format proved popular, with shows spread out over a longer period of time.
"I think it makes it a bit more accessible - people don't get burnt out trying to go to everything."
The Page and Blackmore Readers & Writers programme saw the "biggest audiences ever", with about 50 people buying concession cards to every session.
"The other thing that was really, really fantastic was the Granary Sessions - that local content. The festival's a great platform for that pre-show thing."
The festival wasn't without its hairy moments, with wet weather threatening its first scheduled show, as well as the Masked Parade.
"We had Trinity Roots flying in on the first Saturday of the festival and Nelson Airport was closed. At one point it really, really didn't look like they were going to make it."
Everything worked out, however, and yesterday's Bluebridge Founders Finale at Founders Heritage Park was a "great way to wrap up" with a bouncy castle, a petting zoo, mini ponies and roving theatre characters.
"It was fun. There was a really good train robbery and battle and all sorts of things going on. I think a lot of people really enjoyed it."
Mrs Kelly said the last three weeks were "like a marathon, in a good way" for the festival team.
And guess what? "We're already programming for next year. We have to crack straight into it."
- The Nelson Mail
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