Organisers ‘gobsmacked’ at crowds for light show
What do you do when you plan for 30,000 people and more than 120,000 turn up?
That was the situation faced by Hutt City Council events manager Carla Steed over Labour Weekend.
The inaugural HighLight Carnival featured 20 light installations and a number of aerial performers.
Steed planned for 30,000 visitors but monitors recording cellphones told a different story.
‘‘We had 88,000 individual hits from cellphones. That is one-off hits, there were no double ups,’’ she said.
‘‘I think 120,000 is conservative because lots of kids don’t have mobiles. It is a mind blowing figure. I was gobsmacked.’’
Once Steed realised the numbers were so high she made a number of changes to ensure safety. Between six and eight police were on site for the last three nights and St Johns put in extra staff.
She also called in a lot more volunteers and hired extra security staff. Extra food trucks were also called in.
The feedback she got was that people were concerned about safety and being separated from friends or family in the dark.
‘‘If it had got dangerous, I would have shut it down. There was never a point where the event staff thought it was dangerous.’’
Her main priority was reconnecting lost children with their parents.
‘‘All the children were reunited with their parents incredibly quickly.’’
Despite the challenges, Steed said it was a huge success.
‘‘The feedback so far has been really positive. Being a free event in the community made it accessible to all and the diverse line up provided something for everyone. We feel HighLight has put Lower Hutt on the map.’’
Planning has already started for next year when, as well as closing off nearby roads, she plans to make it easier to move around.
The council’s $24 million events centre will be open and incorporating it in to the festival will create extra space.
She believed it would become an iconic regional attraction and numbers next year were likely to be even higher.
The event partnered with Alzheimer’s Wellington to raise money and awareness for the charity and spokesperson Anne Schumacher was pleased with how it went.
‘‘We particularly enjoyed seeing the visitors interacting with and learning from Affinity, the light installation that was created to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and that shared stories of New Zealanders who have been affected by the illness.’’
The carnival featured a nightly fireworks display, on the roof of the War Memorial Library, which could be viewed across the region.