15 Jan 2019

Volunteers the key to New Plymouth lights festival

3:08 pm on 15 January 2019

The TSB Festival of Lights in New Plymouth has attracted record numbers this summer.

TSB Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth.

TSB Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth. Photo: Supplied / Andy Jackson

A 96 year old's love affair with Pukekura Park began in 1928 and Dorothy Anderson has long since forgotten how many years she has been helping out at the festival.

The festival was officially launched in 1993 but lighting installations have been a feature of the park for more than 60 years.

This year's event features 17 installations spread over a 3.5 kilometre trail and more than 50 live performances from international, national and local acts.

Mrs Anderson's family moved to Taranaki to in the 1920s to take advantage of the emerging oil industry and she can still remember her first visit to the park.

"I had much more energy on my first visit here."

Mrs Anderson said she enjoyed the live performances at the festival but got the greatest pleasure seeing families out together.

Volunteer Dorothy Anderson.

Volunteer Dorothy Anderson. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"I'm interested always in people and have been all my life and I just enjoy greatly seeing whole families come in.

"The children are alight with curiosity to find out what's here this year."

New Plymouth District Council events lead Hayley Olliver said Mrs Anderson was a mine of information and her advice on what to see was not to be scoffed at.

"Dorothy's been a long-standing, loyal supporter of the festival. She absolutely loves the park and we love Dorothy.

"She's fantastic. She knows everything you need to know about every installation. She studies all the information that we give her so she knows how to share all of that."

Mrs Anderson was also an example to younger volunteers such as 18-year-old Thelma Van Duin.

"It's quite inspirational, actually.

"And if I would get to that point in my life and be able to something like this that would be great."

The festival costs about $700,000 to run - about a third of which was covered via sponsorship and grants.

Ms Olliver said without the help of volunteers the event would not be possible.

"We're looking at 60 volunteers over seven weeks. That's 50 nights. That's a lot of time we need from people to make this successful."

The festival, which opened on 16 December, attracted more than 30,000 visitors in its first 10 days and is on track to beat last year's attendance record of 125,000.

Punters had not been left disappointed.

New Plymouth woman Lyndsay Faulkner was taking in the 80s inspired Cube disco installation, but said her favourite was a new feature called the Bells.

TSB Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth.

TSB Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth. Photo: Supplied / Andy Jackson

"It's gorgeous. They're really intriguing. First of all, you hear the chimes and then as you got closer you saw - it was electronic - but all these little children pulling the ropes and the lights going on."

Auckland couple Kim and Clifton Webb said they could not believe the spectacle.

"Some of the lights so far have been amazing," said Ms Webb.

"And it's the star attraction. I was also having a look at the gig guide of what you've got on through December and January and it's just awesome."

The festival is on until 3 February.