Woodford Gail Forrer

Nerves start to tingle for Woodford Festival

TIME IS nigh for the annual Woodford Folk Festival.

And the founder, the ever-optimistic, Bill Hauritz is feeling the annual return of butterflies in his stomach.

"It's a nervous time," he confesses.

He reels off a long list of serious things to complete including the undertaking of major earthworks, the upgrade of sewage, various final constructions and tight timelines. But a history of success gives him confidence.

"We always do it," he says.

Woodford Folk Festival is the largest annual not-for-profit arts and music festival of its kind in Australia, showcasing 2000-plus artists, musicians and presenters in more than 400 acts, across 25 venues to an estimated aggregate attendance of 125,000 people. The festival showcases the depth and diversity of Australia's cultural, artistic and social expression with music, dance, cabaret, circus, comedy, workshops, debate, street theatre, films, forums, visual arts, an entire children's festival and many special presentations, including a spectacle Fire Event on New Year's Day.

Sixty-five-year-old Hauritz started the festival in 1987 at Maleny showgrounds, the festival grew quickly and in 1994 it was moved 20 klms away to 500 acres at Woodford - thus the name Woodfordia.

Along the way, the festival has faced all sorts of challenges including the nail biting moment when the festival's future rested on a court decision.

"The first year of the move to Woodford, we fought a court case and waited on the eve of the festival to know whether we had the rights to host it,"

Fortunately, for Woodfordia devotees it was a positive decision and despite the occasional set-back become the flourishing event it is today.

But for Bill Hauritz, every year there is one extra special moment that makes all the work more than just worth-while.

"At 11.30pm on New Year's Eve, we ring the village bell and there is three minutes silence. The whole place is quiet, the people in the 13 bars, all the people in the venues - about 22,000 people - stop.

"Some people like candles, others just take stock of the moment, the year is about to change, perhaps it's time to remember or make a wish - but for everyone, it's a gift, a special moment in time."

A sunrise ceremony then takes place on the Woodfordia hilltop on New Year's Day. The community greets the sun as they listen to Tibetan chants and guest musician.

Naturally over such a period and especially at the time of the festival, the weather is hot and often wet. There have been extremes such as heatwaves and long deep rains. But Hauritz and his band of workers have tackled the weather event with their usual practical way.

This year a special material will provide shade above 70 metres of walkways.

"The bamboo material brings the temperature down about 7 or 8 degrees," he said.

In terms of rain everything is undercover other than the amphitheatre area and finally with sealing of roadways complete, there will be no more choking dust storms from dirt roads

Unfortunately, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his wife Blanche will not be there to feel the difference.

"They have come 9 years in a row, he said.

"But bit this year - he's not really up for it."

Other Prime Ministers to make their way to the festival include Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.

But for all the famous people, it's the multi-generations of ordinary folk who have a special appreciation of the festival.

"There are people who came at the start, who are still coming and now bringing their grandchildren - it's a third generation of patrons."

The annual Children's Festival is an integral part of festival, a place that accommodates kids with all sorts of crafts, music and full-on fun.

After every festival the committee seeks feedback.

"We have listening posts, we do serious research and every year there is a revolution of change. After hearing complaints about entry costs, a survey was held to seek improvements.

"We did a survey of 4000 random people and the result was that out of 5, 4.8 said there was value for money."

"We don't succeed on everything - but we try," he said.

There are various ranges of camping fees depending on length of stay and camping requirements and there are day tickets for $150.00

"But If you get a day ticket then come all day and stay late - otherwise don't come, because you won't get value for money," Hauritz warned.

over six days - underpinned by 3000 of volunteers.

  • The festival runs from December 27, 2018 to January 1, 2019. https://woodfordfolkfestival.com/tickets/

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