Hill alive with lights and music

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 17/12/2012

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A golden Nelson summer evening contributed to the magic which returned to the Centre of New Zealand this year for the Lantern Celebration.

Thousands turned out on Saturday night with all manner of lanterns and torches for the slow walk up Botanical Hill past fairytale characters and musicians lurking among the trees, dressed for the theme Creatures of the Night.

"Wow, that's fantastic!" a young child yelled at the sight of an acrobat suspended among the trees by a silk rope, while a dazzling light show exploded in the woodland surrounding her.

The event, which has come to herald the start of summer festival fun in Nelson, was canned last year due to heavy rain and landslides, which gouged out various tracks on Botanical Hill.

A crowd conservatively estimated at about 2500 turned out in support this year for the pilgrimage to the top of the hill where music by Diwata got them dancing and Cliff Fell's story of a taniwha had them spellbound.

Hundreds had cameras trained on the sunset over the city before they descended the hill past the silk acrobat and the Te Manawa World Music Choir singing carols.

Festival director Sophie Kelly said the procession past the cluster of different performers, including a snow queen and a princess, a witch and musicians among the trees, was hugely popular.

"I would estimate about 2500 people turned out - there was a huge rush when the gates opened, and we still had a lot of people coming up the hill late in the evening," she said. "The other thing that blew me away was how many different types of people turned out for it."

The event began with a lantern-making workshop at the Botanical Reserve from 5.30pm before the walk up the hill from 7pm. "We couldn't have asked for better weather, and the music and all the children walking up the hill with lanterns. It was a great evening," Ms Kelly said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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