A pagan-inspired festival full of fire, feasting on local produce and revelling in folklore Willie Smith’s Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is back for another year.
Centred around the ancient tradition of Wassailing – a ceremony to scare off evil spirits and bless the apple orchard to bring on a bumper crop – the Mid-Winter festival now attracts thousands to party in the paddocks of Tassie’s apple valley.
The festival features the best the island state has to offer and so too will The Welcome who’ll be putting on a heart (and belly) warming Tasmanian Winter Feast to start the launch party off with four courses of Tassie produce and matched drinks including highly sought-after Hobart Brewing Co beers and award-winning ciders from Willie Smith’s Cider Makers.
The festival kicks off on Friday night with an indigenous welcome ceremony from Nayri Niara, to collectively let go of negative energy and make way for the new – culminating in the burning of ‘Big Willie’ – the 15m tall effigy.
Saturday starts with a bang with the giant bonfire and the main event, a salute to the traditional ‘twelfth-night’ festivals held in the apple growing regions of England, the ancient ‘Wassail’ ritual; a traditional pagan ceremony intended to bring on a bumper apple crop.
Led by Morris Dancers from around Australia and New Zealand, festivalgoers join in the ceremony which includes scaring away evil spirits with shotguns (seriously) and banging pots and pans, then they awaken the apple trees with the Wassail (the traditional song) before blessing them with cider from the previous year’s harvest.
Saturday also sees the return of The Storytellers Cup, now Tassie’s preeminent storytelling event, to give folks a chance connect, reflect and learn from each other through the art of sharing stories. Entries are now open.
Sunday is a day for the young and young at heart, with an abundance of kid’s entertainment including their own wassail, a singing workshop, yoga, a secret play space and flower crown workshops.
The Huon Valley is known for its incredible produce, something festival organisers showcase each year. The 2019 Feasting tent features some of Tassie’s best including Hobart Brewing Co, Ranelagh General Store, Deep End Farm, Pacha Mama, Nandroya Wines and of course Willie Smith’s Cider Makers with their hot spiced cider!
This year, the festival is coming to the mainland in a series of launch parties across the east coast.
For those who haven’t made the journey to the festival yet, the team at Willie Smith’s Cider Makers are giving one lucky launch party attendee a trip to the real deal in Tassie including flights, accommodation, weekend festival passes and of course, cider! Worth over $1,900, the prize will be drawn at the launch party.
“We’re bringing a bit of Mid-Winter to sunny Sydney – with Morris Dancers performing throughout, Storytellers for young and old alike and foot-stompingly good folk acts including Medusa’s Wake with their high energy Irish/Aussie folklore, Shelley’s Murder Boys bringing the bluegrass music of the Appalachians and then all acoustic nine-piece, The Bottlers rounding out the night with their iconic Australiana folk punk!” said Festival Manager, Krystal Cox.
“One of our favourite elements of the festival is the lengths people go to get in the spirit – outfits and all! We’re encouraging everyone attending the launch to also don their pagan finest– with a $200 Welcome Hotel bar tabs up for grabs for best-dressed male and female!”
SYDNEY LAUNCH PARTY: Saturday 4 May from Midday at The Welcome Hotel
CANBERRA LAUNCH PARTY: Sunday 12 May from 1pm at The Old Canberra Inn
MELBOURNE LAUNCH PARTY: Saturday 25 May, from 5pm at The Cherry Tree Hotel
BRISBANE LAUNCH PARTY: Saturday 1 June, from 5pm at The Mill on Constance