When we think about Kelly McGarry, many memories flood to mind. For me, I remember first-hand watching him guinea pigging the Crankworx Rotorua slopestyle course and hollering the whole way down it. For others, it might be watching him backflipping a canyon, or dropping down a gnarly scree line in his hometown of Queenstown, New Zealand. For every person, whether they are a local, a fellow pro-rider or a bike enthusiast, they each have their own fond memory of Kelly.
Riders from all around the world converged on Queenstown this weekend to take part in celebrating Kelly's life, share memories and ride bikes in the same fashion and places that he loved so dearly.
The second annual McGazza Fest ran over the course of three days, covering everything from jump jams to trail rides, mass start races and social beers at his favourite pub.
This is McGazza Fest 2018. McGazza Forever.
The festivities got underway on Friday afternoon with a mega train from the top of Skyline. This was the first chance for many to catch up and all be in the same place together. Spirits were high and so was the stoke.
Looking back across to the top lift station as riders gathered for the mass start.
The locals came prepared with dust masks. Smart.
With temps well in the red for the last few months, the bike park, along with everything else was bone dry and dusty.
The mega train took in some of the Skyline MTB Park's most iconic vistas as they descend Thunder Goat on the way down to Atlas Beer Cafe.
It may have only been a quick ride, but the tales of close calls and lack of visibility thanks to the dust and tight riding were flowing.
After surviving the dusty mega train, plenty of pints were pulled to help wash away the dust in the backs of peoples' mouths.
With a taste of what was to come firmly cemented, Day 2 kicked off with a bang. What better way to see in a manic day than with a mass start downhill race from the top of Fernhill. With the start line set, riders had to make the hour-odd journey up to the McGazza Memorial Table, before dropping in at 2 pm.
Matt Jones was frothing to be in NZ and shredding with the better part of the same international group he competes against.
With no one in a hurry, it gave everyone a chance to stop and take in the surroundings.
The journey up to Fernhill offered little escape from the blazing sun, but a small pocket of beech trees provided the perfect amount of relief from the heat.
With the mercury getting up around the 30-degree mark, the stream on the way up Fernhill was a real refuge.
"Are we there yet?" Not quite.
The McGazza Memorial Table served as the perfect meeting point for the McGazzalanche
Alpine Backflips...? Go on!
Once up top, Carson started throwing down to help pass the time.
James Ramsay hasn't flipped before but figured he better just send it.
Sven Martin and Nathan Hughes better watch out. Kurt MacDonald is going to hang up his spanners and take up being a full-time media squid.
3, 2, 1, go!
Without any delay, 50-ish riders came flying off the top of Fernhill, without a regard for what the were riding over.
Conor MacFarlane got himself into a great starting position and was second before heading into the trees and managed to hold it to the finish.
Mike Hucker forgot his knee pads and paid the price. He slid out and took on a sharp rock. Rock = 1 - Hucker = 0
After a hectic and relatively uneventful McGazzalanche, everyone rolled back up the hill for what was to be the highlight event of the whole fest. Dream Track, situated at Wynyard Crescent, has long been the proving ground for the local big-bike huckers and offers the largest jumps anywhere in New Zealand.
Before the circus rolled into town, a group of locals gathered on the Thursday night for a low key pre-jam to make sure the jumps were rolling perfectly.
Preparation is key. Eddie Masters came ready.
Conor MacFarlane was ready, of course.
Not just a killer builder, Emmerson Wilken can ride a bike bloody well too.
Sam Robbie pointing out the ideal spots for media to be, come Saturday.
Bring on game day.
Conor MacFarlane may live at the foot of Dream Track but takes his preparation for hitting those jumps the same as he would for dropping into a Rampage line.
Remy Morton wasn't going to miss McGazza Fest for the world. He is still coming back to full strength but hasn't lost his flare on the bike.
T-Mac tucked up.
The BMX lads tend to stick to Gorge Road, but they sure as hell threw down and sent it big on Dream Line.
Laurie Greenland had the sun shining out his....
R-Dog was getting all out of shape for the crowds.
Matt Lawton dipping her in.
Eliot Jackson couldn't get enough.
Carson Storch rolling around above the crowds.
Bas van Steenbergen towing Eliot Jackson into the final step up.
Bas on the boost.
Eliot Jackson taking things beyond 90.
With this being Sam's backyard, it was of little surprise to see him floating t-bogs over the 3rd hip.
Dust, dust and more dust.
Caleb Burgess taking a leak.
Callum 'black on black' Booth acting as a mini eclipse
Jackson Davies didn't disappoint.
Small wheels, huge boost!
After a successful and epic jam at the Dream Track, the party continued well into the small hours of Sunday morning. Thankfully the memorial ride to the top of Coronet Peak didn't start until late, offering everyone a chance to regroup and recompose before the last day of the Fest.
A midday start meant the ride was during the hottest part of the day, so any shade available was quickly converged upon.
The ride up the ridge to the summit of Coronet Peak is no walk in the park. Anyone who was still dusty from the night before would have been suffering.
Summits and Stoke
Commonly referred to as 'heaven' or 'paradise', Gorge Road was one of Kelly's favourite places to ride with his friends, so it was fitting that the Jump Jam was the closeout event of the weekend. Jumping, spinning and drinking until the sun went down on a hot summers day.
Before any riding could happen though, all the jumps had to be watered down.
Carson got straight on the tools whilst the riding was on hold.
Strong crowds came to watch what was close to a world level slopestyle event.
Carson Storch getting things wound up.
Emmerson Wilken with the late arvo tailwhip.
Phil McLean was back to full health and throwing down big combos with the pros.
Lewis Jones going to church.
R-Dog floating in space.
Who spun better?
C-Mac with that one-footer steeze.
Elmo Cotter received the MVP award for the weekend after riding every event and throwing down all weekend.
First and foremost, the people are what really make McGazza Fest the best event on the New Zealand calendar, but the open schedule allows for plenty of opportunities to go out on your own rides, too. With the sunsets being so epic and having had a taste of the Coronet Peak goodness already, I had to close out the weekend with a quick sunset lap up Rude Rock.
Last moments of the golden hour above Coronet Peak.
Surfing the waves of Rude Rock at sunset. It doesn't get much better than that.
A very rude rock in the distance, and a moment of golden light before the sun set.
The perfect way to celebrate the life and anniversary of Kelly. Queenstown, until next time.