Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival | Grove
Wassailing is an Anglo-Saxon tradition dating back to early feudal times, which, according to my in-depth Google research probably predated the Norman conquest in 1066. It started in the original cider producing regions of mother England, like; Somerset; Dorset; and Herefordshire, and now, Willie Smiths Organic Apple Cider and the Apple Shed have brought it to the original Apple Isle (Tasmania) with the creation of the Huon Valley Mid Winter Fest.
Basically wassailing involves costumes that resemble chimney sweeps who are channeling the dark side of morris dancing. There are plenty of other costumes too, primarily influenced by living trees and woodland creatures. Once it’s dark and there are bonfires roaring, everybody gathers around the apple trees and plays out a ritual, which includes chants and a shotgun, to entice the trees to produce a good crop, after which everyone continues partying. Of course Tasmanians are going to embrace this slightly zany, offbeat tradition! (there’s a little more to it so if you think it sounds awesome, which it is, there’s plenty of information online).
We have the incredible folk at Willie Smiths Organic Apple Cider and the Apple Shed to thank for this amazing event. Festival Directors, Andrew Smith and Sam Reid, pulled together a sensational team who created a three day event full of beautiful food, beautiful music, and incredible atmosphere.
2015 saw the event in its second year. The inaugural Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival proved such a huge success that the event has doubled in size with 8,500 people attending across the three days. There were twice as many stallholders and an additional night of festivities. The additional night on the Friday saw a burning man cleansing ritual, which featured a 6 meter tall “man” floating on a pontoon, in a dam, which was lit by a flaming arrow (holy jeepers), to cleanse people of bad vibes.
Food ranged from wood fired pizza’s, bone broth and dumplings, tacos and hot dogs through to toffee apples and waffles. There were plenty of vineyards present with some pretty good Tasmanian drops to enjoy, local cider (of course), mulled wines, beers, and cocktails, as well as hot chocolates, coffee and tea (in case you were playing it safe). Undercover seating was provided as well as hay bales under the starry skies.
What really struck me was how much everybody attending embraced the event. A lot of people came dressed in costume and everywhere you looked young and old had smiles pasted on their faces.
The Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival is a sensational new tradition. Festival Directors, Andrew and Sam are keen to see it grow and evolve into the future. They believe it works well alongside other festivals in the region, like the Cygnet Folk Festival, Taste of the Huon and the Huon Show, as it can maintain the energy and vibrancy of these events into the cold, dark, winter months and help to put this creative, productive, and scenic corner of Tasmania on the map.
In the words of Festival Director Sam Reid:
“We want everyone to have a fun experience and embrace what a great community we live in. We want people to come together and forget about the cold and enjoy themselves at a time of year when it’s too easy to stay inside, isolated from the community you live in. To me the event means waking up the Valley in winter and showing the world that the Huon Valley is open for business, which correlates well with what wassailing is about - waking up the dormant apple trees in the middle of winter!"
Well said Sam and bravo to your entire team for making happen!
The Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival website is here
Check out the hashtag #huonvalleymidwinterest on Instagram to see more amazing images from this event!!