Never before has a Minister of Arts accepted an invitation to judge Nelson’s masked parade.
This year, the minister has taken up the offer, and it just so happens to be the prime minister.
Nelson Arts Festival director Charlie Unwin said Jacinda Ardern was due to sit on a judging panel in the CBD to watch the event on October 18 – this year renamed the “mask parade” – that has been part of the annual arts festival for 25 years.
Nearly 3000 people had registered to take part in the colourful carnival event, compared to 2000 participants last year.
Unwin was “pretty happy” with the news on Tuesday, that Jacinda Ardern would also be coming.
“We’ve had a ‘maybe’ for a while.
“We always try to ask the arts minister to attend. Very rarely do the arts minister and the prime minister coincide to be the same person.”
The prime minster’s office said Jacinda Ardern would also attend Nelson’s Cawthron Aquaculture Park and the Centre for Fine Woodworking trust, as part of a day-long regional visit.
Her presence at the walking parade “definitely raised the stakes for participants”, Unwin said, and added to the air of anticipation ahead of the event, which kicks off the 11 day arts festival for the first time since 2010.
The parade, this year themed “discovery”, was always going to be bigger than previous years, with raising its profile as a national event among the new board’s directives, he said.
“For participants, it should be business as usual. Except when they reach the first big corner, the prime minister will be sitting on a chair,” he said.
Judges in the past had overwhelmingly been local people.
Unwin would join Ardern on the judging panel on the corner of Trafalgar St and Hardy St, along with a member of Nelson Youth Council, and another person to be confirmed.
They would watch the parade, which also featured costumes, dancing and music, before deliberating, with prizes including best community group, best individual, best school and pre-school group.
Unwin urged the “whole of town” get involved, with those watching also encouraged to don a mask.
”We have second generation people in the parade, people who walked in it when they were children, now their children are walking in the parade, it’s almost a rite of passage for Nelsonians.”
He hoped more people outside of Nelson would also join in as participants or spectators.
“There are so many cultures around the world that have masks as a tenet of their culture, so it would be fantastic to have some Balinese masks for example in the parade.”
Credit: Katy Jones , Stuff