4 Uniquely Tasmanian midwinter celebrations
Dark Mofo generates international attention each year, but it’s not the only winter festival worth putting on your Tassie to-do list. The island’s colder months see the state celebrate everything from fresh Tassie produce and locally made chocolates to the love of singing, with a superb calendar that includes these four highlight events.
Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest; July 13-15
Taking its cues from ancient pagan rituals, the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest celebrates the fruit that gave the Apple Isle its nickname. One of the most enjoyable parts of the festival is ‘wassailing’ – the practice of scaring evil spirits out of the apple orchard by dancing, singing, beating pots and pans, and burning wicker effigies.
It’s not just Tassie’s apples that are worth protecting. The full bounty of the Huon Valley and beyond is on display at the festival’s welcome feast, which features food trucks and stalls from the region’s finest producers. Expect to sample the likes of Deep End Farm Taiwanese steamed buns, Fat Pig Farm free-range pork and Lady Hester mini sourdough donuts – and wash it all down with lashings of Willie Smith’s cider – made from organic and locally grown apples, of course. Yum.
Festival of Voices; June 29 to July 15
Keep the cold at bay with a heart-warming singalong at the Festival of Voices. Each year, singing artists and choirs from all over the world converge on Hobart and the East Coast, performing at events such as the Big Sing Bonfire and Tasmania Sings, an impressive showcase of school choirs. For the rest of us, there are singing workshops and activities on offer: in 2018, guest vocalists include British conductor David Lawrence, who is holding a themed singing workshop on popular German composer Johannes Brahms, and American expert Deke Sharon, the so-called “father of contemporary a cappella”. A lead musical consultant on popular Hollywood movie franchise Pitch Perfect, Sharon knows what he’s talking – or should we say, singing – about.
Chocolate Winterfest; August 12
Chocolate bars are a staple of nights around the fire, and Chocolate Winterfest, Latrobe – just 10 minutes’ drive from disembarkation at Devonport – unites chocoholics with a program of events to celebrate the sweet treat. Previous activities have included Chocolate High Tea; Chocolate Wonders of Wearable Art and Chocolate Mousse Mayhem – any number of ways to enjoy chocolate in all its forms. Kids will love the Gold Digger treasure hunt as well as dog-sledding demonstrations– and they might even spot a platypus, since Latrobe is on the Mersey River, one of the best places in the country to see this elusive local. The full 2018 program is released on July 7.
Tasmanian Whisky Week; August 13 – 19
Tasmania’s whisky culture has become something of an international attraction – but there’s only one week of the year when the state lights up in a celebration that’s entirely local. With events across distilleries, bars, restaurants, hotels and even barns and stables, there’s something for every whisky aficionado on offer during Tasmanian Whisky Week. While this year’s program has yet to be released, previous years have seen pop-up dinners held at well-known wineries (such as Quamby Estate and Frogmore Creek) serving up Tasmania’s typically excellent food and wine alongside “sneak peeks” of vintage pre-releases (specifically, those from innovative emerging distilleries which have not yet released any products to the market), alongside “boilermaker” evenings (matching Tasmanian beers to Tasmanian whiskies), behind-the-scenes tours of well-known distilleries, and dinners paired with talks from entrepreneurs of the distilling scene, recalling successes, challenges and insights from their respective journeys. It’s a warming experience in more ways than one.