Record crowds expected at Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival

10 July, 2019 by Andy Young

The Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is expecting records crowds this weekend, as thousands of people come to celebrate the region’s apple heritage and perform the ancient ‘Wassail’ ritual – a ceremony intended to bring on a bumper apple crop.

With mainland ticket sales tracking 25 per cent on last year’s sales and overall ticket sales tracking five per cent up on last year’s record 18,000 strong crowd, Willie Smith’s Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is set for another bumper turnout – this time at the festivals new home in the heart of the Valley, the Ranelagh Recreation Grounds.

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Festival Director and Willie Smith’s Cider Makers Co-Founder Sam Reid said: “I’m pumped to see everyone exploring the little nooks and tucked away spaces around our new site – with over forty fire pots, 200 hay bales and 1000 apple bins tucked in and around the animal sheds – it’s looking awesome.”

The Festival kicks off on Friday with a Welcome Ceremony from Nayri Niara which culminates in the burning of a two-storey wicker man ‘Big Willie’. The traditional massive bonfire will light up the large paddock while the traditional English wassail blessing the apple trees, will be highlighted on a new elevated earth stage.

“This year’s program is packed full of new additions,” said Krystal Cox, Festival Manager. “Our sold out Mid-Winter Banquet, Eye Am Hair’s Pagan Parlour offering hot stone massages and pagan hair stylings, the inaugural Apple Valley Sculpture Competition entries on display for festivalgoers to engage and interact with, and Sunday’s Growing Stories Storytelling slam, giving kids the chance to tell their tale, tall or true.”

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.

Led by Morris Dancers from around Australia and New Zealand, festivalgoers join in the ceremony which includes scaring away evil spirits with shotguns, banging pots and pans, and awakening the apple trees with the Wassail 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.

Run by Festival Director and Co-founder of Willie Smith’s Cider Makers, Sam Reid and the Willie Smith’s team, the Festival is backed by Dark MOFO, Events Tasmania and the Huon Valley Council.