Life has been pretty busy lately as I launch my consulting business, family visiting, school holidays and the Barossa Vintage Festival.
I heard about the festival soon after moving here and decided it would be a good way to learn more about the Barossa and to meet people. I also figured I should put my events experience and arts and entertainment management studies to good use. It is the largest and longest running wine tourism event in Australia and sees the Barossa community come together to celebrate the end of grape harvest and vintage. The festival was first held in 1947 with a parade and a ball, which 2000 people attended. It has been held every 2 years since, apart from in 1952 when it was canceled due to a period of national mourning following the death of King George VI.
In 2014, the concept for the festival was revitalised, with experienced events producer Andrew Dundon being brought in to oversee the 95 events organised over 5 days. Many of these events were free and most were organised by local businesses and groups, with the festival committee and sub-committees volunteers taking responsibility for the Ziegenmarkt, the Feast, the Parade and Barossa Comes Home. A key element of the festival is the Young Ambassadors program, which was established in 1999 and involves 12 young adults who host and promote the Barossa and the Vintage Festival. They sit on the event sub-committees as a means of developing a range of skills. The winners were announced during the Barossa Comes Home event and it was great to see one of the Young Ambassadors I worked with on the parade Dana Roocke, winning the Barossa Young Excellence award while Chloe Thomas was awarded Barossa Young Ambassador and Laura Romeo won for having the best personal project. It was great to be a part of the Parade sub-committee. Putting together Facebook posts for the event – first encouraging people to register their floats and then promoting the parade itself – was a great excuse to explore the archives and learn more about the history of the parade.
It was great to have my sister, my brother-in-law and their two girls join us from Sydney for the festival. We started on Wednesday – which was an amazing autumn day – visiting the Festival Garden at Yalumba. I hadn’t been back to Yalumba since moving to the Barossa but it was the first winery I visited in the Barossa when I escorted the Vice Mayor of Wuxi, China around Australia during my first year at Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1999. We spent a lovely day on the lawns enjoying great food from Saskia Beer, empanadas from our friend (and former Masterchef Contestant) Colin Shepherd and his wife Fiona, raspberry sundaes and wine from Yalumba. The kids enjoyed the first of many ice creams from Barossa Valley Ice Cream – which was definitely the highlight of each event (thanks Julie)!
The weather turned on Thursday but that didn’t stop us from visiting the Ziegenmarkt. Ziegenmarkt (goat market) was a fresh produce and livestock market in Tanunda from the mid-1800s. Since 1981, it has been a part of the Vintage festival. The auction of local produce was a highlight (and raised money for charity), along with great potato pancakes from the Tanunda AFL Club, coffees from Barossa Coffee Roasters and pastries from Apex Bakery. The kids were kept entertained with games and meeting animals including goats, a horse, a pig, chickens, and guinea pigs.
Friday may have been wet, but that didn’t stop over 1000 people heading to Seppeltsfield for the Let’s Fly a Kite event, put on by one of the local schools. Unfortunately by the time we arrived they had sold out of over 400 kites, but we enjoyed a wander through some lovely markets, amused the kids with bubbles and stuffed ourselves with freshly made donuts, sausages on buns and pancakes (in that order) and of course coffee! On Friday night, we left the small ones at home with the babysitter and walked over to the Tanunda Show Hall to join 700 of our closest friends for the Feast. After drinks outside (in our BYO op-shop glasses as is tradition here), we made our way into the hall, which had been transformed with long tables and a huge feast of great Barossan food and wine. We were entertained by comedian Damien Callinan as MC, the Lucky 7 Swing band, dancers (and lots of dancing) and photo booth fun before walking back home in the early hours.
Waking up at 6am was a bit of a shock, but I had to be at Nuriootpa for parade set-up at 7am. Floats slowly arrived and started to set-up while I stood on the main street directing traffic around the road closures (thank goodness for the map our parade convenor Kat had prepared).
This meant I had a prime position to take photos of all 52 float entrants (some with multiple vehicles and usually with a group walking alongside) as they started the long walk/drive to Tanunda. At 7km, the parade is apparently the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, which involves quite a bit of logistical planning to manage road closures along the way and wouldn’t be possible with the many volunteer traffic marshals who turned up on the day. At least it was probably a lot easier to organise than the longest parade in the world which is the Hanover Schützenfest parade, which is 12 kilometres long and has more than 12,000 participants including more than 100 bands and around 70 floats and carriages.
As soon as the last float left, I drove back home to collect the family so we could be in place as the floats arrived at the end of the parade in Tanunda. Standing on the street elicited the usual “I’m bored” complaints – until the parade started. The kids loved it and my almost 2 year-old niece was very cute laughing and clapping for them all. There were so many great floats as you’ll see below.
We all then headed off to the Oval for the Barossa Comes Home event, during which the winners of the Scarecrow exhibition, the Young Ambassadors and various parade categories were announced. The kids finally had the chance to go on a jumping castle, there was more ice cream for them and more wine and sausages for us. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as kind as it could have been but it was great to see so many families out enjoying the food, drinks and space to run around. Although we only attended a handful of the events on offer, we had a great time, and it was exciting to learn that most events were well attended and many were sold out. It’s very easy to see why the Vintage Festival holds such an important place in the tourism calendar for the Barossa and I am definitely looking forward to being involved again in 2017.