Floats, food and fun were the order of the day when the Alexandra Blossom Festival once again cast its magic across the town.
After a nail-biting, weatherwatching night, Saturday dawned with cloud but no rain.
Friday night’s Mardi Gras was cancelled due to the weather and states of emergency were in force in surrounding areas, so the dry day was an enormous relief to organisers of the 66th festival, which has never been cancelled because of the weather.
As the event wound down late in the afternoon, festival committee chairwoman Sharleen Stirling-Lindsay said she was ecstatic.
‘‘It’s always quite an elated feeling I think for the committee, that all that whole year of work has come together.
‘‘Especially when you get to the parade and you see all that happen and then you get to the stage [for the presentations] and the committee is there, we’re all there, and looking out and everyone’s having a good time, . . . you feel elated.’’
Committee member Michelle Davies paid tribute to the float makers.
‘‘You look at how much effort people have gone to and they are so good.’’
Mrs Stirling-Lindsay said the way the Alexandra community embraced the festival was the key to its success.
The enthusiasm for the different facets made it work — from the floats to the senior queen and princesses, to the window display competition for the Bain Cup. ‘‘People get it,’’ Mrs Stirling-Lindsay said.
‘‘The windows alone, we used to have about seven, this year was up to 20 [entries].
‘‘People are getting behind the whole thing.’’
The sheer hard work and ups and downs of putting on a huge event were all forgotten at the end, she said.
‘‘All the other stuff just goes by the by because you see people so happy.
‘‘And you have moments like the princess and she’s being totally shocked [at being crowned], all those things kind of make it.’’
Blossom Princess Myah Turnbull said she could not believe it when she was named the winner.
‘‘It was awesome.’’
She was delighted for HireKing, whose float she rode on, and was looking forward to what the year would bring.
HireKing Cromwell manager Jamie Frisby said entering a float was a lastminute decision and they only started about two weeks ago.
They were planning to lift their game next year and already had ideas for it.
The Grans Who Can float won the people’s choice award with their Minions-themed float.
Festival manager Martin McPherson said he was slightly nervous about this year’s event given the extraordinary weather events going on outside the district.
Some of the children’s entertainers had come from Twizel, where it was snowing on Saturday morning.
They left really early to make sure the show would go on, he said.
The festival had always been about the community and giving directly back to it in many ways, including contributing to the swimming pool, Mr McPherson said.
Now groups got involved and were able to benefit from helping out.
The Mardi Cup teams were the cleanup crews and made $1500 doing it.
‘‘That beats running a sausage sizzle.’’
They made an amazing job turning up at 6.30am on Sunday to dismantle the fencing and tidy up, Mr McPherson said.
About 15,000 people had been in the park and more watched the parade, he said.
Some parade watchers had clearly been there early, setting themselves up atkey viewing points complete with comfortable chairs, drinks and snacks.
Senior Sergeant Clinton Wright, of Alexandra, said they were pleased with the behaviour of festival-goers.
‘‘The event went well and there were no significant issues with the very large crowd who turned up to watch the parade and go to the festival.’’
There were no arrests made but infringement notices were issued for not wearing seatbelts, speeding and breaching the local liquor ban.
A large contingent of vehicles came from Dunedin and Southland and overall attendees were well behaved.
However, some intoxication was noted, MrWright said.
Only one of the 1292 drivers stopped at checkpoints during the weekend required a blood sample for alcohol analysis, which was extremely pleasing, he said.
The fireworks display, which was scheduled for after the Mardi Gras on Friday, lit up the sky on Saturday night instead.