Kelvin Sparks helps his grandson Luke Foord, 7, reach up to the light beams coming off a display at Light Nelson on Sunday. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Lighting up Nelson


Light Nelson exceeded all of its organisers’ expectations this year, with 40,000 people visiting over the two nights, but massive queues and long waits left a sour taste with some event goers on Sunday.

With Friday night’s event called off due to rain, most people waited until Sunday to attend Light Nelson, with 30,000 people coming through the Queens Gardens and surrounds on the final night.

People were queued down Bridge St past the Suter Art Gallery, and at the peak, those entering the park had to be held back, and Light Nelson Trust chair Brian Riley says Friday night’s cancellation didn’t help.

“There’s no way we could have expected a crowd that was six times bigger than our busiest night last year,” he says.

Brook St resident Christine Horlemann said it took about “half an hour” just to get into the Queens Gardens and across the first bridge.

“They should have run it for another two days. We’d never been before but just thought we’d go for the kids to look at something different.”

Liz Reeve attended the free event after seeing it on TV, and despite saying organisers were struggling to cope with the demand, she thought it was neat. “It’s a bit of excitement for the kids. I’d definitely come again.”

But some event goers weren’t so impressed and vented their frustration on the Nelson Weekly Facebook page.

“Total nightmare tonight, trying to get round with kiddies. Far too many people, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough!” said Summer Hebberd.

Cheryl Remnant thought the venue was far too small for the crowd that attended and “got sick of being abused for trying to get around with stroller after all it was listed as a family event.” While Casey Brown thought it was a “waste of time” and left after 20 minutes of not getting anywhere.

Light Nelson featured 40 installations from local and national artists, and in its second year organisers were hoping to top the crowd of 16,000 from last year.

In future events, Brian says the intention is to create a promenade along the Maitai and extend the installations right into the city. “With the huge crowd we had last night we really need to make this happen soon.”