For more than two decades, John Searle has been the man on the ground behind some great Kiwi Christmas memories – Santa abseiling into the Auckland Domain, and potato flakes raining on the people of Christchurch.
Searle, who has been the event producer of "one of the happiest night on New Zealand's calendar" Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park – never loses his enthusiasm for leading the production of the country's largest free public event.
For Searle, it's the family element that keeps him passionate.
"There's an enormous amount of work, good will and great people who put this show together. Most of us have been involved since the very beginning, and that's what makes it so special," Chillingworth says. "It's about the whanau, the family behind it."
Also involved since the start, Searle has been the event producer for the last two decades. "Sometimes things get hard – with rain and wind – not everything works out perfectly," he says. "But when you get people coming up to you saying 'I thought that was cool', it's a really good feeling. Not everyone gets that in a job. It's about the families, and the happiness it provides."
And with each extravaganza, the technology and complexity of the production intensifies. Some of Searle's favourite memories are of abseiling Santa down from the Auckland Hospital roof, and a helicopter with a monsoon bucket dropping potato flakes over Christchurch's Hagley Park. "People thought it was snowing," he laughs.
"My crew is made up of really professional people in the industry. The atmosphere we create is one of family. This is the family of Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park and we enjoy getting together."
Barnett says it's the "family effect" that keeps him returning to the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park stage.
"There's a sense of commonality," the MC says. "Everybody loves this time of year, everybody's in a great frame of mind, I just think it's beautiful."
"Without Coca-Cola, the show couldn't happen," Searle explains. "Not only do they fund this event, Coca-Cola are providing management, expertise that I require to put a show like this together. The public of New Zealand have been getting the benefit of this for all these years. It's just a fantastic gift."
Chillingworth says the show is Coca-Cola's "gift to the people of New Zealand".
"It's a free community event – it's a happy, uplifting, fun night. Whether you're 5 or 75 there's something for everyone," she says. "Generations of Kiwis have grown up with this show."
The Auckland Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park will be held in the Auckland Domain on Saturday, December 10, at 7.30pm and will be shown on TVNZ 2 on December 18 at 6pm.
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