Burying the ghost of WOW

BOB IRVINE
Last updated 14:48 23/06/2014

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The Winter Festival is poised to lift our gloom, and not a day too soon. When I lived in Auckland and earned real money, the seasonal salve was a week's holiday on a Pacific island.

Picturing a sultry lagoon on Raro carried us through months of filthy weather, motorway mayhem and a botoxic tinge to the indigenous fauna. Now, as I queue at Postbank in Hardy St, a cardboard cut-out man in aloha shirt and lei taunts me for no apparent reason.

Sadly, high house prices and low sunshine wages have built a wall between yours truly and those coconut palms. However, cause for cheer is a simple matter of refocusing, and having missed the Light Nelson show last year, I am busting to see Version 2.

Is this our breakthrough national event? Can we finally cast off the widow weeds of WOW and dance again in a bright new outfit?

Getting the mix right with big events is hellishly difficult, as the Ellerslie Flower Show has discovered. So who's got it sussed? I've had a skip through the web for successful festivals whose format we can filch (or as they say in the entertainment biz, "pay homage"). Try these:

Burning Man A week-long explosion of art, performance, music and anything goes in the middle of a Nevada desert. Draws close to 70,000 punters - those are the figures we want. It started small in San Francisco in 1986 and is now on the bucket list of anyone worldwide with a creative spark in their synapses. A Kiwi version was mooted a few years back for tiny Mangakino in the Waikato, but nothing has eventuated. Ripe for the plucking, then.

The festival takes its name from the huge wooden effigy burnt as the centrepiece. Possible air pollution hassles there, but not if we hold it in Tasman and call it orchard trimmings.

Alice Springs Beanie Festival We all love our woollen skullcaps in winter, so hats off to central Australia for parlaying that bond into a four-day event (happening this very weekend). According to its website, the festival "brings together over 6000 original handmade beanies from around the world". "We celebrate outrageous headgear and promise a heart-warming, soul-enriching experience full of colour and joy." Sounds like just the ticket. Exhibitions, workshops, live entertainment, and genuine bush tucker ("More kangaroo tail, anyone?") round out the menu. Central Australia now has a national (indeed, international) reputation for the production of quirky beanies."

My sceptical specs fell off when I spied last year's People's Choice winner, Old MacDonald - a miniature knitted farm, complete with sheep. Very cool (and warm). It's impossible not to see it and smile, which is a tonic on its own.

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Night of the Radishes Mexico devotees in Motueka have tried to float the Mexican Day of the Dead as a knees-up, but we are already cursed with Hallowe'en as our satanic blight from the Americas. This more civilised celebration lasts just a few hours, apparently, because the radishes go off quickly once carved into folk art by farmers. The giant veges become animals, saints, dancers, cathedrals, the Virgin Mary . . . The good news is that they are inedible (as every radish should be) because the growers pump them full of chemicals and fertilisers to increase their size. San Fermin Festival New Orleans The running of the bulls for people with brains. Instead of being chased by horned monsters down narrow streets, in this American version the "beasts" are roller derby women who whack you with a foam baseball bat if they catch up to you. I'm up for it, and the Sirens of Smash are ready to roll. The festival begins and ends with a party, as you'd expect of New Orleans.

Glastonbudget Some people sneer at tribute acts, but who amongst us hasn't donned white tights, bared their chest, smeared their top lip with soot and strutted around the lounge belting out a scorching Bohemian Rhapsody into a hairbrush mic . . . or is that just me? Every May, a farm in Leicestershire hosts the mega-festival of fake rock. Over its decade-long run, Glastonbudget has showcased The Bootleg Beatles, Mercury, a brace of Michael Jacksons, Dep Leppard, Green Date, Four Fighters, Oasish, Abba Revival, Kins of Leon, Blurb, Guns 2 Roses, T Rextasy and more. As the website says, truly a festival to "bake anyone's cake".

But wait, there's more . . . Glastonbudget has an official beer, and away from the music, fairground attractions include Hook-A-Duck, Teacup Ride and Bouncing Disco. Weekend tickets start at £80, and the festival pulls in more than 10,000 punters (many of them dressed as their favourite artist). We're talking serious money here, Nelson. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see a cash cow.

Eeyore's Birthday Party A salute to miserable gitism - what's not to like? Austin, Texas fetes Winnie's best friend every year with music, belly dancing, a drum circle, face painting, free food, and a dress-up bonanza. In short, a blast for kids of all ages. Strange how the simple act of donning a costume gives us permission to shed inhibitions. Clothes maketh the manners, you could say, but it's harmless, healthy fun, enjoyed with the added glow of knowing that the proceeds go to charity.

Nelson could give this one a Kiwi spin by hosting a Hairy Maclary party. I can already picture local identities to play Schnitzel von Krumm (with a very low tum), Bitzer Maloney (all skinny and bony), Muffin McClay (like a bundle of hay), Bottomley Potts (covered in spots) and Hercules Morse (as big as a horse).

That'll do for starters, and we haven't even canvassed the Duct Tape Festival in Ohio (floats, fashion and statues), the Testicle Festival of Montana ($5 sampler plates of "Rocky Mountain oysters", plus a wet T-shirt competition, cowpat throwing etc), the West Virginia Roadkill Festival (BYO stomach pump) or El Colacho, the baby-jumping festival in Spain. The world is our mountain oyster . . . Dang - Hokitika is already doing that.

- Nelson

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