The Alexandra Community Christmas day barbecue lunch returned to the St Enoch’s Church grounds yesterday, after the annual event was disrupted last year by Covid.

Rev Andrew Howley said the plan for Christmas lunch had been developed over the last eight years he and his wife Rosalie had spent in Alexandra.

Many of the volunteers returned each year to help prepare and serve the food.

They had decided against holding the event last year as vaccine mandates had just been introduced and Christmas should be a time for everyone, he said.

“It would have been the first mandated event in town, but we didn’t want to exclude people.”

Many of yesterday’s guests were workers from overseas who were in Central Otago for the cherry season.

Irene Yeoh, of Malaysia, said she first came to New Zealand for a working holiday in 2020, and returned in early December after her visa was extended because of Covid.

Joon Ow Yeong, also of Malaysia, came to Central Otago for the cherry season as well.

“We came for the experience, and to enjoy the scenery and the fresh air,” he said.

Other guests were from Uruguay, France, Italy, England, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, joining locals who had lived here for generations and newer residents originally from Nepal.

“We do usually get a United Nations of people,” Rev Howley said.

Valerio Lolli, of Rome, Italy, was on his second visit to New Zealand, having done an extended cycling tour of the country seven years ago.
He was joined by volunteer Averil Miller, of Clyde, for a classic New Zealand Christmas dessert of pavlova, and the two shared stories of the countries they had each visited.

His earlier trip required a lot of planning, as he and a friend carried everything on their cycles and mainly travelled on tracks and trails, Mr Lolli said.

“This time, I am relaxing, working on cherry orchards and seeing more of the country.”