When special events impresario Alan Smythe presented his idea of a free outdoor family Christmas concert to
She never imagined that a quarter of a century later it would be referred to as “the nation’s favourite Christmas party” and would turn into a musical spectacular which has showcased thousands of talented young Kiwi performers, featured top local and international talent, has raised millions of dollars for charities and is broadcast to the nation on free to air television.
It was a massive success!” Annette said. “We were stunned by the attendance and delighted by the positive feedback we received.”
“Since that first concert, the show has grown to become New Zealand’s largest free annual Christmas community event. It’s in both Auckland and Christchurch and it’s our gift to New Zealand - bringing family and friends together at a special time of the year. It’s been an absolute privilege to be part of it.”
Annette has been there for every single event over the past 25 years. Not only has she attended every performance but she’s also been at every dress rehearsal, making a total of nearly 100 performances over the last twenty-four years.
“The wire ran from Auckland Hospital to the stage and for a heart-stopping moment Santa got stuck halfway. Fortunately, he started moving again and made it to the stage. The crowd loved it but we never tried that again!” she said.
Another unforgettable moment was when it “snowed” in Hagley Park. “It was a beautiful balmy Christchurch evening, and we had a helicopter fly over dropping potato flakes over the park. It was magical.”
“I’ll never forget one year a weather bomb hit and the rain bucketed down for the entire time. We had over 40,000 hardy determined spectators who lasted the distance sheltering under umbrellas and tarpaulins,” Annette said.
“The performers got saturated, but like true professionals they carried on. I remember being at the park the next day while the show was packing down and watching ducks swimming on the flooded area where our spectators had been sitting the night before!” she said.
Annette said the event has become an aspirational goal for young performers and has launched the careers of many Kiwi artists including Hayley Westenra, who first sang at the Christchurch event when she was just 13.
Over the years headline acts have included Sir Howard Morrison, John Rowles, Neil Finn, Tim Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Elemeno P, Broods, Midnight Youth, Holly Smith, Anika Moa, The Koi Boys and Stan Walker.
Today the purpose-built stage is nearly four times its original size - the largest ever designed and built for a New Zealand production. Concertgoers now experience a global arena-style presentation and the 66 metre arc of LED screens offers one of the widest panoramic projections ever presented in New Zealand.
“We’re like a family, we’ve been working on it together for so long that we have a special bond. Who would have thought that when we asked the Air Force Cadets of No 3 Squadron to man the road closures for the first event they would still be doing it now? And after more than 20 years, Morningside Playcentre is still running our Lost Kids tent at the Christchurch show. It’s amazing!”
Central to the event is the fundraising.
Read more here: https://www.coke.co.nz/christmas-in-the-park
CCCITP KEY FACTS
250,000 attendees in 2017, with 200,000+ watching the TV broadcast
1998 was the largest event ever with 300,000 people in Auckland
Since 1994 over 9,000 performers have performed on the big stage
The 22 metre Christmas tree and the spectacular fireworks finale are major highlights for many
Three key aspects of the original concept – to bring communities together, raise money for charity and provide an opportunity for aspiring performers – continue today.