Rock on at the Gathering

Evening Post, 2 January 2001

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Partygoers at the Gathering in Takaka are making the most of the 'psychedelic carnival atmosphere', some popping pills - legal and illegal - to stay awake.

They include teachers, lawyers, students and stock market speculators. Many have travelled long hours from the main centres to get here.

They all have one thing in common: Four days free to party hard, relax in the sun and enjoy the biggest dance party of the year - the Gathering.

To stay awake through the 72-hour Golden Bay party and intensify the sensory experience, they sip energy drinks and coffee, pop pills and take regular dips in an ice-cold river near the event's massive campground.

Illegal drugs are commonplace and it's hard to find people who aren't using cannabis, speed or Ecstasy - some admit taking all three. However, there are people enjoying the experience without drugs.

It's Dunedin medical student Clayton Connolly's third Gathering and he's loving every minute of it.

"It's a sensory overload," he says of the people, food stalls and seven dance zones that pump out loud throbbing music non-stop throughout the party. "It's this psychedelic carnival atmosphere."

His friend Amanda Wiersma, a 19-year-old marketing student, is enjoying her first Gathering. She particularly likes the hypnotic techno music, spectacular night-time light shows and the event's no-alcohol policy.

"It's really out of it and I love it. It's just bringing lots of nice people together and getting out of the alcohol scene; there's no violence and no aggression."

Pre-school teacher Angela Atger, 21, was at last year's Gathering when it was evacuated because of bad weather. She would like to stay at this event forever but has to return to work in Christchurch on Thursday.

Taranaki newlyweds Nikki Davey, a teacher, and Pete Phillips, a fitness teacher, said the Gathering was the best place for a honeymoon. Their first Gathering experience exceeded their expectations.

"It's just awesome. There are no police, no alcohol, no aggro. It's in an awesome setting with beautiful, loving people," Mr Phillips said.

Auckland photographer Nick Jenkins, 23, said the best thing about the Gathering was it did not end at 6am on New Year's Day. He will be one of the thousands partying hard until midday tomorrow, when the event closes. - NZPA


Caption: CELEBRATION - Thousands of dancers at the Gathering at Takaka Hill welcome in New Year 12 hours after the three-day dance party started. TENT CITY - Thousands of campers pack into the new Gathering site. Pictures: NELSON MAIL PARTY PEOPLE - Above, Wellingtonians Kirsty O'Hara, left, and Esther Small chat before boarding a bus for Takaka. Right, Partygoer Ruth Pond of Palmerston North is lost to the beat on Sunday. Supplied by New Zealand Press Association

Evening Post, 2 January 2001

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