Thousands of people have flocked to this year’s NightFest to enjoy the light show of cascading colours across Commonwealth Park, the spiralling trees of the Nautalis Forest and a variety of special entertainment.
This year for the first time there were different entertainment themes for each of the five nights of NightFest which was run over consecutive nights and organisers have hailed it a programming success story.
Starting last Wednesday night (26 September) and finishing on Sunday night (30 September), NightFest’s themes included a movie night, two different music nights, a party night and a comedy night – all dovetailing with the wider pop culture Floriade theme.
Events ACT group manager for event delivery, Ross Triffitt, said NightFest was particularly well-attended over the past weekend with Sunday’s comedy night drawing the biggest crowd.
“It was our biggest turnout and just reflects that Canberra loves comedy,” he said.
Mr Triffitt said final attendance data for NightFest won’t be available until after Floriade finishes and it will be after this that they fully review how it went and make decisions about next year’s event.
This year NightFest departed from the norm of being run over six nights on two consecutive weekends with a similar program each night. Mr Triffitt said it can be challenging to make changes to a big event as audiences need to get used to them.
“The big takeaway and success is the theme nights. This has been a good change, a positive change,” Mr Triffitt said.
“We had different crowds turning up for a different experience.”
Mr Triffitt said that Wednesday’s movie night was a big hit with families, while the music nights last Thursday and Friday appealed to a younger demographic.
“One of the highlights was Friday night’s Bowie Unzipped and Kate Miller-Heidke,” he said.
Saturday night saw people dress up in 80s clothes with ‘big hair’ for the 80s tunes of party night, while Arj Barker was a particular crowd favourite at comedy night on Sunday.
“There was a lot of audience interaction, a lot of people getting up and dancing during the music nights and a lot of laughs on Sunday night,” said Mr Triffitt who attended the start of every NightFest evening as well as the close for three of the nights.
“The atmosphere was fantastic,” he said.
“It seemed to be a really good success from a programming point of view.”
Mr Triffitt said it was also more efficient and cost-effective to run NightFest on consecutive nights.
Floriade’s partnership this year with local industry was also very evident at NightFest, with Underground Spirits providing a pop-up bar with pop-culture themed cocktails, Wamboin winery Contentious Character providing wines, Capital Brewing Co. providing beer and award-winning restauranter Pialligo Estate providing food via the ‘Pialligo Urban experience’.
Mr Triffitt said the partnerships “have been very successful in showcasing our local produce to interstate visitors”.
“At NightFest the crowds were certainly embracing the bars very strongly,” he said.
Hosting a ‘Movers and Shakers’ event on Saturday night, the co-founder of Underground Spirits, Andy Galbraith showed guests how to mix a caramel espresso martini and explained the background to the business getting its name, with co-founder Toby Angstmann beginning it all by “tinkering in his basement”.
“It did start off as a very underground sort of thing and then developed into the glorious distillery it is today,” he said.
This year’s NightFest saw the use of 20,000 LEDs with 1000 main lights illuminating the flower beds.
Design stars Mandylights changed things up for 2018 through the use of ‘intelligent’ lights across the park so they could remotely change colour, position and patterns throughout the night.
There was also a special ‘Nautalis Forest’ in the rhododendron garden which made use of thousands of LED pixels supported by an ambient musical soundtrack and mist.