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Thousands jammed Cuba St for Carnival

Feb 21st, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

Dancers in the night-time Cuba St Carnival parade dazzled a crowd of 150,000. (PICTURE: Bonnie Tai)

Dancers in the night-time Cuba St Carnival parade dazzled a crowd of 150,000. (PICTURE: Bonnie Tai)

HEY, AUCKLAND – this is how to hold a real street carnival.

Tens of thousands of Wellingtonians turned out to show JAFAS how to stage a cultural event as they rocked, sauntered, ate, shopped, drank and sweated through Cuba St Carnival under an unexpectedly sweltering sun.

There was no sign of forecast rain as the capital celebrated the 10th Cuba event, in the process leaving Auckland’s newest claim to being the cultural capital of New Zealand looking ridiculous.

There was little sign of expected traffic snarlups of the motor vehicle kind, but a big marquee pitched near the Bucket Fountain created pedestrian havoc on Cuba St as hundreds were jammed into narrow spaces either side of the mall.

The resulting crush slowed progress to a crawl, and wasn’t helped by an Indian restaurant taking up walking space in the tightest section with its attempt to sell food to passersby. Not that they seemed to have much success, since nobody could stop.

It seemed the only sour note on a spectacular day, as happy crowds shopped at market stalls, listened to bands at a host of stages dotted around the streets Cuba St, Manners St and Courtenay Place and their cross streets, and ate ethnic food sold by street vendors.

The claim that 150,000 turn out for this biennial festival would be hard to prove either way, but by mid-afternoon it was so crowded in Cuba St that little could be seen of the paving and people shuffled along at little more than a crawl.

The Dominion Post reported that the event attracted 50,000 more revellers than in 2007, but gave no hint as to how that figure was arrived at. It said 100,000 people were in the city centre for the 2003 premiere of Return of the King.

Crowds six deep watched the evening parade, with police reporting about 50 arrests for offensive behaviour, assault and liquor ban offences.

Some shopkeepers complained that business was down on a usual Saturday.

The following pictures were captured by NewsWire, including the night shots taken by Bonnie Tai:

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The crowd squeezes past the Mighty Mighty Bar tent blocking most of Cuba St.

The crowd squeezes past the Mighty Mighty Bar tent blocking most of Cuba St.

It's tight on the other side, as well.

It's tight on the other side, as well.

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The Bucket Fountain never fails to catch the unwary.

The Bucket Fountain never fails to catch the unwary.

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One group was knitting – graffiti for trees.

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Above the Cuba St Carnival

This tourist was intrigued by some unusual back alley signs.

This tourist was intrigued by some unusual back alley signs.

Happy Cuba St crowd
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One way to beat the heat

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  1. Kia ora koutou to the Newswire team.
    Great pictorial spread of Cuba Street Festival. Wellington was definitely ‘te pito o te ao” – centre of the universe – this weekend…
    One question who are the fun bare chestedparty people on the floor above our campus..
    cheers

    Queenie

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