The Gathering goes on regardless

Nelson Mail - 1 January 2000

Pouring rain and ankle-deep mud did not dampen the spirits of thousands of revellers at The Gathering, where spectacular fireworks, laser light and fire-dancing displays marked the arrival of the new millennium. Midnight passed without problems despite widely-circulated rumours that white supremacist gangs had planned mass violence.

Spokeswoman Alison Green said this was the "best Gathering ever" with an excellent atmosphere from the minute the gates opened. She said about 10,000 Gatherers were happy to slush about in the mudbath created by constant rain.

The four-day dance party started on Thursday morning with huge traffic jams on Takaka Hill. Some faced up to 12-hour waits before they reached Canaan Downs, but spirits remained high. "Gatherers have been looking forward to this for a long time and they wanted to get here as soon as they could, which is why we had the bulk of the traffic on Thursday," she said.

The New Year was welcomed in at the heart of the site, in the fire pit and in the trance zone, where organiser Murray Kingi had a surprise planned for Gatherers. Ms Green said the much-anticipated "Murray's Surprise" was a farewell for the old millennium and a greeting to the new by local kaumatua. This was followed by fireworks, DJ Antaro from Germany and a display of the best light show The Gathering had to offer. The fire pit was aglow with a huge bonfire, fire dancers - including a topless woman - and even a naked male juggler.

Auckland student Jayne Anderson said the experience was one she would remember for the rest of her life. "There's just so much to see, and such a great place to have it in. I'll remember New Year for the trance zone and the fire dancers," she said.

Ms Green said there were 2000 people between the trance zone stage and the fire pit, with each new surprise being greeted by appreciative cheers from the crowd. "They didn't mind the rain and mud at all. Gatherers are a special group of people and they're great anywhere. They have waited for this all year and, for that reason, won't be disappointed," she said.

Ms Green said she was not surprised that rumours of violence proved unfounded. "The rumours were completely without truth. I had 40 versions of the story on my e-mail. It was just a bad game of Chinese whispers," she said.

The event went without a hitch, with tight security monitoring alcohol and traffic. Ms Green said there had been no problems with alcohol because people had learned in previous years that it would be confiscated at the gate.

The best thing about The Gathering for ex-Takaka resident Aimee Crother was returning to her roots, spending time with friends and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

Christchurch drum and bass band Salmonella Dub was a crowd pleaser, performing their own style of drum hip-hop, fused with reggae.

Mark Wood, a traveller from Canada, said there was a "really cool vibe", with Canaan Downs being a unique and wonderful location. "The weather is a bit of a bummer but it's still really great," he said. Ada Nash of Nelson was enjoying her third Gathering and said she loved being in a place surrounded by friends.

The Gathering closes tomorrow, with everyone expected to be gone by sundown.

Kirsten Newman, Nelson Mail, 1 January 2000

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