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.

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