Winter, lights and community came together at the weekend in a luminous celebration.
A record nearly 5000 people from Central Otago and further afield converged on the Cromwell Mall for the annual Infinite Energy Light Up Winter.
The event’s fifth year had stretched to two nights.
On Friday evening, young people danced to the beat of their own drum and bass at the Silent Disco, while photography fans expanded their skills with a Winterstellar astrophotography workshop.
On Saturday, the mall was lit with thousands of lights and displays, fire›dancing and glow sticks, while visitors browsed craft and food stalls and sipped mulled wine while listening to the local musicians play.
The Southern Light Orchestra and LUMA had come on board this year to add to the lighting displays.
The Vanbeusekon family of Queenstown attended the event for the first time on Saturday, and daughters Anaia (6) and Erica (3) entered the Light up your Hat competition.
The girls created Dr Seuss› inspired Cat in the Hat creations, with face paint and fairy lights.
‘‘They’re so cool— the lights’ Anaia said.
Mother Katrina said she was impressed with the event.
‘‘Oh, we love it. I’m looking forward to a mulled wine’’.
Cromwell teacher Sarah Luke and daughter Gracie came to listen to the local music — one of Ms Luke’s pupils was performing — and to see the lights.
‘‘It’s so lovely, so sparkly and magical,’’ Ms Luke said.
Gracie was excited to see her friend Micha perform.
‘‘The lights are really pretty,’’ Gracie said.
At 6pm, families and groups gathered at the Big Fruit Reserve, where close to a thousand lanterns were released into the sky, creating a trail of lights.
The lantern release has become a signature of the event and a highlight for many.
Niemh Hamilton, of Ireland, said the lantern release was a beautiful moment.
‘‘They are beautiful reminder to everyone who is going through a tough time, they are in our thoughts,’’ she said.
Cromwell and Districts Promotions Group community relationships manager Gretchen Nightingale said Light Up Winter began as a chance for the community to ‘‘break the winter” but had grown as people travelled from outside the area to attend.
‘‘It’s an awesome community celebration to get everybody out and light up our mall,’’ she said.
‘‘Just watching the families out all together, and everyone dancing . . .just bringing the community and sharing this with visitors — it’s amazing.’’
The event relied heavily on the support of community and volunteers, Mrs Nightingale said.
‘‘If we didn’t have our volunteers we couldn’t run this event. They’re so special.’’
‘‘We get the same volunteers coming back every year . . .that says how special this event is . . . how passionate people are.’’