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"
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
Barnett says it's the "family effect" that keeps him returning to the
"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."
Chillingworth says the show is
"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."