The picturesque Huon Valley lies forty-five minutes from Hobart. Famous for its wines and apple ciders, a tour through this region is usually quite a sedate affair. The Willie Smith Apple Shed is a popular cidery and restaurant in the area which attracts many visitors with its tipples and fine food. Each July, however; you could be forgiven for thinking that madness had descended as people engage in acts such as burning effigies, banging pots and pans and singing to the orchard’s apple trees. Fortunately, this is all part of the Huon Valley Mid Winter fest which takes place from 15 – 17 July 2016.
This “madness” is all part of the ancient European tradition of wassailing. The ceremony was designed to wake fruit trees from their winter sleep and ensure a plentiful autumn harvest. Families would carry a wassailing bowl full of cider down to the orchard just before dark along with pans, kettles, whistles and anything else that made a lot of noise. Each tree would be visited with various chants and songs being performed. In some areas, participants carried flaming torches and burnt a bush or human effigy. The Huon Valley Mid-Winter fest aims to recreate some aspects of this ceremony on the Friday night with the “Burning Man” being a major attraction.
The excitement of the wassailing continues throughout the weekend with an amazing line-up of entertainers for people of all ages. Woolfzingers Cider Show Alley is a send-up of medieval sideshows with some weird and wonderful characters. Be tempted (or not) by strange potions, suspicious food offerings and some caged human exhibits. It’s all in good fun and adds to the olde worlde atmosphere.
This year, the musical and storytelling talent is unsurpassable. Musically, you can enjoy jazz, soul, punk, folk and even zydeco. Craicpot with their energetic renditions of Irish and Australian songs and gypsy band Guerilla Zingari are two unmissable acts this year. The weekend also includes the lost art of storytelling with some “creative” versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales being presented. The local storytellers will keep you transfixed with their magical ability to weave words and hold your attention. The inaugural storytelling slam on Saturday night promises to be a highlight.
It would be impossible to visit this fertile area of the world without indulging in some of its culinary delights. Mexican street food, pizza, vegetarian burgers and hand-crafted chocolates will only be the start of your gourmet journey. With specialty coffee to wake you up and Tasmania’s best wines, craft beers and ciders to keep you mellow, you will definitely be sated.
The Huon Valley is visually spectacular at this time of year. Take a day trip from Hobart and enjoy the offerings of the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest. Buses also run from Hobart throughout the weekend if you don’t wish to drive. This is definitely an event to mark on your calendar.
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