That time again, folks
Not long until the annual Woodford migration starts for thousands
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 woodfordfolkfestival.com
‘‘ THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CAME AT THE START, WHO ARE STILL COMING AND NOW BRINGING THEIR GRANDCHILDREN – IT’S A THIRD GENERATION OF PATRONS. BILL HAURITZ Photo: Tessa Mapstone
REGULAR VISITOR: Bill Hauritz welcomes former PM Bob Hawke to the stage at a previous festival.