It was very much the calm before the storm in Wānaka on Sunday afternoon, as small clusters of people waited at the waterfront in anticipation of the festivities kicking off at night.

The lakefront bars were full of people seeing off the final sunset of the year, while on Dungarvon St hundreds of people waited with varying levels of patience for buses that would cart them to Rhythm & Alps in the Cardrona Valley.

Tegan Lamont and Trev Jones, both of Wānaka, said this would be their first time attending Wānaka’s waterfront party, and they were particularly looking forward to seeing local band The Mandates perform.

“We just looked up what’s happening in Wānaka, saw the band list, looked up a few songs and it sounded pretty cool,” said Mr Jones.

Tegan Lamont (left) and Trev Jones, both of Wānaka, look forward to the new years’ festivities kicking off at the waterfront tonight. Photo: Regan Harris

While the wind had died down from earlier in the day, a chill was starting to set in and the pair had decided to return later wearing an extra layer or two.

Summit Events owner and operator Craig Gallagher, whose company has the tender for the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s New Year’s events in Queenstown and Wānaka, said they were expecting approximately 8000 people over the course of the evening.

Making the most of Rhythm & Alps’ final day are (from left) Liam Searle, Alex Robertson and Ben Carter, all of Masterton.

Meanwhile, the party started early for festivalgoers at Rhythm & Alps, with performances on each of the stages beginning at 4pm.

Hundreds of people continued to flow through the main entrance in the early evening, with a crowd of 10,000 expected to ring in the new year.

By Regan Harris