Sunshine and fun times as crowds flock to the festival

THE first Derwent Valley Autumn Festival in three years has been confirmed as an outstanding success and have firmly reestablished the region as the ‘Fall Capital” of Tasmania.

At 1pm on Sunday, about halfway through the 2023 Autumn Festival, some 10,391 people had registered as incoming guests. With crowds of people still arriving by foot, by stroller and by bus, the prospect of 15,000 was well within view.

Festival organiser Liz Virtue who worked with the crew from the Rotary Club to ready this year’s event – the first since the Covid pandemic that began in 2020 – is one happy organiser. Actually, she’s more than that. “We’re overwhelmed with the response,” she says. “And delighted, thrilled! A brilliant day and brilliant weather.”

As for pre-registration of those coming to the festival, Ms Virtue maintains that knowing how many people were coming to an event took the guesswork out of planning, particularly critical elements like toilets.

“More than that, we’ve had generous financial support from a significant number of sponsors,” she said. She paid particular tribute to work of the Rotary Club members and the organisation’s president, Kylie Farrell. Rotary was excited to revive this event, said Ms. Farrell.

“The enthusiasm for a refreshed festival highlights just how missed this event is.” “I’m still getting over the fact we were able to pull this together in four months,” adds Ms Virtue. “That’s a remarkable effort.” And an extraordinary result it was.

Some 150 stalls, displays and exhibitors were laid out on the riverside lawns along New Norfolk’s Esplanade. At one end were festival stalwarts like the New Norfolk Football Club’s barbecue, and at the other, a series of woodchopping displays from the Southern Tasmanian Axemen’s Association. Between them, a multitude of food stalls enjoyed lines of customers through the day, as did those retailing plants, leather to candles, jewellery to hats and clothing.

Between them were information booths from Hydro Tasmania, Boyer Paper Mill, the Derwent Catchment, and the Bridgewater Bridge, each their own attraction to festival visitors. And then there were the local producers of wines and spirits, ciders and beers. “Fantastic!” said Adam D’Arcy from Plenty Cider, opening his arms wide.

“The punters have told us how impressed they are with the high quality of products, and the best range of ciders, spirits, wines and beers in the state. A great day all round.”

Dean Metcalf, at Autumn Festival with his wife Tanya and a healthy stock of his excellent sloe gins, said: “What a turnout, and so badly needed by all the local producers. Well done to the organisers, the Rotary Club.” Jane Harrington, who’s the public face of the Two Metre Tall Brewery, told us that after more than two years of Covid, she was “just pleased to be out in front of our customers again”.

The hive of activity that was New Norfolk, with streams of pedestrians, along with cars, buses and strollers continued well into Sunday afternoon as latecomers looked for ways into – ways out of – the Esplanade. Over at the New Norfolk Bowls Club, neatly placed at the main entrance to the Autumn Festival on Ferry Street, the upstairs clubrooms were full of those looking for a superior Devonshire tea. Eyeing the crowd, club treasurer Greg Banks said although the club is normally not open on a Sunday, “today was a good idea.

This is something, we’ll do it again!” He could easily have been talking about the entire Autumn Festival, and 2024.