Teens launch appeal to save Parachute Festival

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
parachute festival
Kelsey Wilkie/Fairfax NZ

AMBITIOUS: Thames High School students Holly Douglas, 16, and Jennifer Hedges, 15, launched the Help Bring Back Parachute 2015 page on Facebook.

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A pair of Thames teens have turned to social media to launch a $500,000 fundraising appeal aimed at saving the Parachute Christian music festival.

Parachute Music chief executive Mark de Jong announced last week that the curtain had fallen on the event, held at Mystery Creek Events Centre near Hamilton, after 24 years. January's event made a $250,000 loss.

Shortly after, Thames High School students Holly Douglas, 16, and Jennifer Hedges, 15, launched the Help Bring Back Parachute 2015 page on Facebook, and by yesterday it had more than 3100 likes.

On Monday the teens launched the Give Back2 Parachute Twitter account @PchuteSupporter, and on Tuesday a bank account had been opened in their name.

"We have got lots of people on the Facebook page who want to help us fundraise," Jennifer said.

"We are getting really trusted people from the community that we know to look after the bank account."

Holly's family friend Bruce Darvill, a Queen's Service Medal recipient for services to the community, is one of them.

"I have known Holly since she was born," Darvill said. "When she came to me I thought ‘you have got to help a kid who is doing something like this'."

Other signatories are Holly, her mother Lyn McHugh and family friend Alistair Buchanan.

If the campaign did not raise the target the girls would still give all that was raised to Parachute.

"We are going to raise as much as we can and still give it to them," Jennifer said. "We want to give something back to them."

Both girls attended their first Parachute festival this year and neither are church regulars.

"Me and Holly went by ourselves. We found other friends there and just hung out with them. We loved this year's festival so much, it got teenagers out of trouble for a few days. I just found it really fun, really inspiring, and I just want to go some more."

Naenae College student Andrew McLaughlan, 17, of Lower Hutt, is helping the campaign and emailed de Jong after hearing him tell supporters he'd consider another festival if the community raised $500,000 within four weeks.

De Jong has not replied to Andrew, and told the Waikato Times: "I don't have anything to say about it".

In a video entitled Thankyou and Goodnight, posted on Parachute's website, de Jong said the cancellation was "something, really, that's been building for the last three or four years".

Parachute spokesman Luke Oram said: "Canning the festival was a purely financial decision, so, if by some miracle that mount of money was raised quickly we would definitely give it serious consideration. We haven't closed the door to future events."

Long-time festival-goers put the decline in numbers down to the event losing its focus. This year's festival swapped contemporary Christian musicians for secular acts.

Around 16,000 attended this year, compared to 25,000 at its height.

One Hamilton-based youth pastor, who asked not to be named, said many Christians had voted with their feet this year because of the change in emphasis and some people couldn't give tickets away.

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The Help Bring Back Parachute 2015 account, set up at the Paeroa branch of ANZ, is number 06 0821 071354200.

- Waikato Times

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