That time again, folks

Not long un­til the an­nual Wood­ford mi­gra­tion starts for thou­sands

The Gympie Times - - OLDER & WISER -

TIME is nigh for the an­nual Wood­ford Folk Fes­ti­val.

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

“It’s a ner­vous time,” he con­fessed.

He reels off a long list of se­ri­ous things to com­plete, in­clud­ing ma­jor earth­works, the upgrade of the sew­er­age sys­tem, var­i­ous fi­nal con­struc­tions and tight time­lines.

But a his­tory of suc­cess gives him con­fi­dence.

“We al­ways do it,” he said. Wood­ford Folk Fes­ti­val is the largest an­nual not-for­profit 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 spec­tac­u­lar Fire Event on New Year’s Day.

Hauritz, now 65, started the fes­ti­val in 1987 at Maleny show­grounds.

The fes­ti­val grew quickly and in 1994 it was moved 20km away to 200ha at Wood­ford – thus the name Wood­for­dia.

Along the way, the fes­ti­val has faced all sorts of chal­lenges, in­clud­ing the nail-bit­ing mo­ment when its 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,” he said.

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

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

“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 light 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.”

A sun­rise cer­e­mony is held on the Wood­for­dia hill­top on New Year’s Day. The com­mu­nity greets the sun as they lis­ten to Ti­betan chants and guest mu­si­cians.

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 events in their usual prac­ti­cal way.

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

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

In terms of rain ev­ery­thing is un­der cover 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 nine years in a row,” he said.

“But not 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, a place that ac­com­mo­dates kids with all sorts of crafts, mu­sic and full-on fun.

The fes­ti­val runs from De­cem­ber 27, 2018 to Jan­uary 1, 2019.

For info and tick­ets, go to wood­ford­folk­fes­ti­


REG­U­LAR VIS­I­TOR: Bill Hauritz wel­comes for­mer PM Bob Hawke to the stage at a pre­vi­ous fes­ti­val.

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