Ohakune Mardi Gras has had a makeover – and it’ll just keep getting better.
WORDS DANIEL DUNKLEY / PHOTOS SHAUN ROSS
What do bangin’ drum and bass, Mt Ruapehu and evening street parties have in common? The Ohakune Mardi Gras. June’s event was the first Mardi Gras run by Audiology Touring, which took over the long-running festival from its former backers in 2017.
The winter festival, which kicks off the ski season, has been a fixture of the Ohakune calendar for more than two decades. It got a serious upgrade when Audiology’s Mitch Lowe and co came on board and revamped proceedings. The full-blown next-gen street party is held on Thames Street in Ohakune at the base of the north island’s biggest mountain. In keeping with the carnival theme, it also features games and rides.
While Mardi Gras had struggled under its previous ownership, with a bumper line-up OMG 2018 was the biggest yet and sold out in just two weeks. The party was a showstopper as Ohakune welcomed Australian drum and bass legends Pendulum, who played a rare reunion gig. More top names are being lined up for 2019’s multi-genre event, which will feature everything from electronic music to rock and hip-hop.
Mitch describes Mardi Gras as a “passion project” and says one of the biggest challenges is keeping the locals happy. Audiology has invested in extra staff and a huge clean-up crew to ensure the alpine town looks as beautiful after the party as it did before. “We want to deliver it in a way where the town loves it again and wants to have us back,” says Mitch.
And Mardi Gras isn’t just about the music. The festival is part-owned by the Ohakune Events Charitable Trust and gives back to the region by sharing the profits from ticket sales. “The trust puts half of the profits back into the community,” says Mitch. “It has a nice ‘giving back’ vibe to it.”