Embracing the chill at the Huon Valley Midwinter Festival

Since the first Huon Valley Midwinter Festival inspired us to celebrate rather than hibernate in the middle of July back in 2013, the event has grown in reputation and scale, outgrowing the Willie Smiths Apple Shed site. This year it relocated to the Huon Valley Showgrounds at Ranelagh, a couple of kilometers down the road.

Organisers put a lot of effort into logistics and into creating an environment that aimed to match the rustic charm of the old apple orchards from which it sprang, so it was perhaps unfortunate that the weather really decided to test the celebratory mood by turning on rain, sleet and snow (on the surrounding ranges) for the weekend. But if you are serious about celebrating the coldest, darkest, wettest time of year, then you need to take the weather in your stride, whatever it brings. And put your gumboots on!

Sculpture and art

Here be dragons…. and stags and spiders and tree-people and (of course) apples.

Food

No shortage of options for a midwinter feast. And if a bit of naked flame (or a lot) is involved, so much the better.

Entertainment

The experience itself is immersive, and enhanced with a range of stages, displays and stalls offering music, demonstrations of heritage trades, story-telling as well as stalls selling all manner of crafty, folky knicky-knacky bits and bobs.

Pagan rituals

I attended on the Friday evening, the night that they burn ‘Big Willie’, the 15 metre wooden ‘wicker man’, a ritual with pagan roots but given an antipodean twist by incorporating an Aboriginal ceremony to cleanse the spirit and make way for the new.

Don your tatters!

Revellers are encouraged to put on their finest pagan garb and tatters, and the revellers responded.

Surrender to the warming flames

Given the cold, revellers gathered around the many fire pits, while the drama of flame were incorporated into everything from cooking to musical entertainments.

The weather caused a few problems, making parking difficult in the nearby paddocks (and keeping a fleet of tractors busy unbogging cars), but on the night I was there, everyone seemed to take it in their stride and have a good time regardless.

The Huon Valley Midwinter Festival is held in Tasmania’s Huon Valley around the middle weekend in July each year.

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