Sunday, November 28

Covid-19 uncertainty: Alexandra Bloom Festival canceled

Alexandra’s community is devastated, her annual flower festival has been canceled.

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Events Director Martin McPherson
Photo: Otago Daily Times / Alexia Johnston

The historic event was entering its 65th year and is the longest and continuously running community festival of its kind.

With thousands of people expected to attend later this month and so much uncertainty surrounding alert levels, organizers said it was a call that had to be made.

For many, the Alexandra Blossom Festival is a sign that spring is taking away a long, cold winter.

The small town of 5,500 people can triple when iconic flower floats parade down the main street.

But the Delta outbreak had already put a damper on this year’s festival, as not as many floats were made in time and Auckland artists had to cancel.

Events manager Martin McPherson said they wanted to celebrate the festival’s 65th anniversary with a bang, not a whimper.

“The festival parade was not going to look that fast and I recommended that it would be better to do nothing than to do something that did not live up to our usual high standard and the committee agreed,” McPherson said.

“The sad news is that after 64 years, there will be no 65th. We had to cancel our festival, which is the hardest decision I have had to make in 40 years in the entertainment industry.”

It took me about a year to bond with the work starting at the next festival shortly after the last one ends.

Martin began emailing animators, booth vendors, and other participants about the decision early this morning, saying that people were disappointed but understanding.

“It takes a long time to build a floral float that is literally covered in thousands of handmade paper flowers and I know there are float builders out there … like the Lion’s Club who are about to finish their float.

“But what will they do with it? They’ll cover it up, keep it in the corner of a shed and it’s coming out next year, freshen it up and put the finishing touches on it and 2022, we’ll have a bigger, brighter, and even better festival.”

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan recalled coming to the festival as a child from Balclutha with his family.

It was a great loss to the community, he said.

“When you come from winter here in Central Otago, for me, I see my first daffodil and my first lamb and I think ‘aww beauty, we’re almost done.’ Because it’s a bit cold, so for the community, it’s that celebration of spring. We’ll find different ways to celebrate that this year. “

But I was expecting a great festival next year.

“I think the Otago and Southland community, in particular Central Otago, next year is going to say ‘man, we missed it last year’ and it is going to go absolutely gang buster.”

Cancellation would be a huge success for many companies, but I was hopeful that travelers would keep their reservations and still visit them.

The festival could add up to a million dollars to the local economy.

Tin Goose Cafe co-owner Alister Watson expected levels to change over time like they did last year.

But he said it was the right decision.

“It will have a significant impact. We will probably triple the business over that weekend, but at the end of the day, if we are at Level 2 now and we can get some income … there are a lot of businesses in Auckland that can’t run so I guess that we can’t be too upset. “

Avenue Motel co-owner David Burke said Alexandra came to life during the flower festival weekend.

“It’s already starting to have a big effect on our cancellations. A lot of people will be coming from out of town just for the flower festival.”

“For example, I have 15 units here and two units that were not full by the scheduled date.”

The organizers already had their sights on a bigger and better celebration next year.

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