Massive queue no deterrent at Gathering

Nelson Mail, 1 January 1997

A huge traffic jam greeted thouseands of young people as they tried to get into a music festival at Canaan Downs, Takaka Hill yesterday. Ravers from across the country were drawn to The Gathering, described as the largest dance party of its kind in New Zealand. Crew member Grant Ellis today said 5,000 people were dancing to music supplied by more than 100 DJs and several bands. The weather had remained fine overnight.

The event runs for 48 hours from noon yesterday to January 2. It features about 100 musical acts and six dance arenas in a 17ha area. But getting inside to hear the music proved to be one of the biggest challenges. A sign at the entrance, which read "expect delays" summed-up the situation. A traffic jam along the narrow festival route, Canaan Road, stretched as far as the eye could see. The approach road is about 8km long. Vehicles were backed up on State Highway 60 for hundreds of meters. At one stage traffic was bumper-to-bumper from the bottom of Takaka Hill to the Canaan Road turnoff, police said.

Many of the vehicles were old and a lot stalled in the queue which made progress slow. A battered red Avenger, which died at the start of Canaan Road, had to be pushed to one side to allow others past. The car's occupants, seemingly unperturbed, gathered up their gear and continued on by foot. Others, like Tania Pocock and Anna Cairns, both students from Christchurch, arrived by bus and made the walk voluntarily. Carrying sleeping bags and a few belongings, the pair said they had not realised the walk was so far, but did not really mind.

The atmosphere among car-bound ravers was patient and they appeared quietly exuberant about what was to come. Warwick Spence had driven 50m in 45 minutes.

"I thought there might be a bit of a hold-up, but nothing like this," he said.

Also in the queue were five from Invercargill who drove up in a former hearse. One of them, Steve Burgess, said he was looking forward to getting to the festival and being away from civilisation. Others had also come for a welcome break from big-city life. Richard Kidd, from Wellington, said he wanted to get away from celebrating the new year in a city pub. While he would still be having a few beers, the festival was about "dancing all night" rather than alcohol. Mr Kidd said that people who came to festivals like this tended to be relaxed and mellow.

Mr Ellis said late last night that the traffic situation had "calmed down a bit" but people were still coming in to the festival site. He said the traffic jam was probably due to the slow nature of the access road, which was narrow and took 20 to 25 minutes to drive the 8km to the festival entrance. There had also been a few vehicle breakdowns.

Dense low cloud gathered around the hillside before dark and helped with the light and laser show.

David Youngmeyer, Nelson Mail, 1 January 1997

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