This July, in the depths of darkness and on the chilliest of days, festivalgoers will join in waking up winter when the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival kicks off on Friday 13th July.
The Festival, based at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed incorporates a three-day program of pagan inspired celebration with 18,000 people expected to attend. Premier Will Hodgman officially launched the festival at sunrise atop Kunanyi/Mt Wellington this morning with an awe-inspiring view over Hobart and surrounds.
“It’s an other-worldly event that’s based around the ancient pagan ritual of bringing good luck for the upcoming harvest in the hope of great crop.” explains Festival Director Sam Reid.
“Last year we had 15,000 people flock to the festival and have such a great time enjoying a perfect melding of irresistible local food, wine, beer and, of course, cider, warming bonfires, mesmerising folk music, dancing and storytelling,” Mr Reid said.
Festivalgoers wear traditional pagan outfits, which involve ‘tatters’, painted faces and top hats, dating back to the 1500’s when dancers in the Welsh borders used to dress up and cover their faces so neighbours wouldn’t recognise them as they begged for money on the streets.
The festival starts on Friday night with a traditional welcome ceremony, produced by Nayri Niara, uniting Aboriginal traditions and contemporary innovations for optimistic action and healing incorporating the burning of a 15mtr tall effigy to collectively let go of negative energy and make way for the new.
Saturday kicks of with a bang with the giant bonfire and the main event, the traditional ‘wassail’ – the purpose of which is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn.
“This is a traditional pagan ceremony originating from the apple growing region of the South-West of England which is celebrated to this day. The focus of the wassail is to wake up the dormant apple trees in the hope of a good harvest in the coming season and signifies the days lengthening and the sun getting stronger as we transition from Winter to Autumn.
Saturday see’s the return of the much-loved MACq 01 Huon Valley Storytellers Cup, which is helping highlight the importance of storytelling in the community. Festival Manager Krystal Cox said “storytelling is a tool for connection to community and connection to land and helps us a society to reflect and learn from each other.”
In a new addition, this year the ‘Wayfinder’ mobile storytelling studio will be launching and recording some of the festivalgoer’s personal stories to share with friends.
This year the Sunday Family Fun day is ramping up with an abundance of children’s entertainment including the kids wassail, kids maypole dancing, kids yoga, a secret kids HIDEOUT and flower crown workshops. The day will also feature Sydney children’s band The Vegetable Plot who are touring their new album and on a radical mission: to get kids to fall in love with vegetables!
Mr Reid said “It has transformed the Huon Valley at a traditionally quiet time and this year we are expecting even more people to come and see what the festival is all about because we have attracted some awesome interstate performers, including 8foot Felix (MELB), VulgarGrad (MELB) and Medusa’s Wake (SYD).
“We probably didn’t expect it to become as popular as it has when we first started, a bit like everything we do, but we always focus on making the best product or experience that we can and it’s nice to know that people appreciate our efforts as a team!
“I guess we have also been pretty lucky as our event is very ‘on brand’ with the Tasmanian brand right now with a huge dose of quirky and a lot of community good vibes and on top of that there is another little winter festival called Dark MOFO which has certainly captured the hearts and minds of the cool and creative class Australia wide!”
About 1,000 people are expected to come from interstate, with the festival likely to inject more than $1 million into the local economy.