Icy flights take off at festival

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2014
The Southland Times

Birdman competition during the 40th Queenstown Winter Festival on Sunday.

2014 Queenstown Winter Festival
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ Zoom
The Queenstown Winter Festival parade.
todd barclay
JOHN HAWKINS
GOING, GOING, GONE: Todd Barclay and crew take part in the Birdman competition during the 40th Queenstown Winter Festival on Sunday.

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It's not every day you get a politician to go jump in a lake but the prospective Clutha-Southland candidate did just that in Queenstown yesterday.

National candidate Todd Barclay, the party's pick to succeed incumbent Bill English after 24 years, leapt into Lake Wakatipu with his campaign crew during the infamous Queenstown Winter Festival Birdman contest.

Six teams in costume and DIY "flying" contraptions launched themselves from a runway over Queenstown bay. Atlas Beer cafe's ET: The Extraterrestrial theme kicked off the day on the bay, jumping into the 11 degrees Celsius water after "ET phone home" blasted from the sound system.

Barclay, 24, of Dipton, was at the helm of a "Team Key" National party boat - cue quips about sinking feelings, abandoning ship and in at the deep end.

Judges Tracey Fox, Graham Budd and Steve Gurney - last year's Birdman winner - were impressed but awarded prizes to the "high rollers" from Skycity for best flight, Pack & Send's team for best costume, a giant parcel, and overall best effort to Shotover Jet driver Niam Chronican and his flaming jetboat.

Chronican was the last contender of the day, revving up his jet boat complete with orange flares gushing smoke out the back before leaping into the water.

He started as a driver with the tourism firm in May and said he tested the flares but did not expect them to burn for so long. Orange smoke enveloped the crowd on the foreshore, forcing more than a few festival-goers to move.

"In the grand scheme of things it wasn't too bad. The lake wasn't too bad once you got in but it was cold when you were half in, half out and in the shade."

The day on the bay madness continued with the popular "Undy 500" foreshore race with lots of strapping young women and men racing a hay-bale strewn course in their pants.

Contestants were keen, some of them continued despite bleeding knees and very sore feet from running barefoot.

In the women's heat, Irish sisters Lucy and Vicky Backus, of Donegal, gave their Kiwi counterparts a run for their money, finishing second and third behind winner Shannon Taylor, of Winton.

Lucy, of Auckland, said she was roped into the event by her partner. who was competing in the men's section.

"It was cold, but it's no colder than the Irish Sea," she said.

The winners after Saturday's street parade were Queenstown Primary School with a 70s flower power theme and Real Journeys and Cardrona with their "steam and speed" float.

Last night, the comedy debate tickled a few ribs as Paul Ego, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, Michele A'Court and host Jeremy Corbett jostled for laughs while arguing whether "40 is the new 30".

Today, festival-goers can choose from a whisky-tasting masterclass, a seminar on climate change, a winter quiz and free gigs in Earnslaw Park and central Queenstown.

Tomorrow, more laughs with the adults-only comedy night, a free Crossfit workout and a free Ministry of Sound session with DJ General Lee at Skycity.

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Winter Festival is celebrating 40 years since the first event in 1975.

- The Southland Times

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