Old Apple tree we’ll wassail thee: Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival

Following on from our wonderful boat trip down the Huon River last Saturday for our Instameet, we had another fantastic event in store. The Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival was in its second year of operation and us lucky photographers were granted tickets from the fine people at Hobart & Beyond and Instatassie.

After disembarking the Yukon, we made our way to the Apple Shed, home of Willie Smith’s Organic Cider. Now if you’d asked me before Saturday if I was a cider fan, I’d have said no. However after sampling the delights on offer from Franks and Willie Smith’s, I think I might just be a convert!

We arrived in the grassy car park and were promptly and efficiently guided to the next available spot by a well drilled team of organisers. After getting our gear together we had two options of getting to the front gate of the festival; walk or get a lift in a tractor. Guess which one we went for?

I went into this event completely blind, not looking up any websites or photos from the previous year. I wanted to experience it first hand and take it all in (Something I highly recommend for these events). I approach new locations a little differently as I like to find the best shooting spots but when it’s a festival, everything is fluid and dynamic and there’s no “How-to” guide in place like there may be with an interesting landscape.

On our way into the event we got our first taste of the atmosphere that lay ahead of us. A couple were getting out of their car dressed head to toe in the most fantastic outfits of black and purple with a covering of leaves and trailing fabric. As we approached the gate, more costumed folk appeared and the ticket scanners themselves were dolled up with pagan face paint. It was then I knew this was going to be something special, an event with an atmosphere that soaked up all your senses.

Our group set about seeing to their needs, some were thirsty and required cider, others were hungry and knew some homecooked food from one of the many stalls would fill them up, and others went straight for their cameras and began documenting the occasion. I started with the first option, and purchased a delicious bottle of Willie Smith’s Organic Cider before getting a yummy kebab from Laziko Kebabs & Balik Ekmek. Once sufficiently fed and watered I began to look for photographic opportunities. To my luck the costume competition was just beginning when I entered the main tent. There were three categories; children, women and men. Judging was carried out by the crowd cheering for their favourite as each entry introduced themselves. Naturally the kids stole the show and received the biggest cheers. The lady from that couple we had seen in the car park won the women’s category but alas her partner was beaten to the punch by a gentlemen who went all out and dressed as a tree.

Throughout the day, numerous musicians, poets and storytellers took to the stages dotted around the venue, regaling the crowd with folk music, tales of apples and local folklore. The food and drink stalls were kept busy by the very healthy crowd numbers who poured into the venue from near and far and the whole event felt like one big garden party, it was jolly fun indeed. I was talking with some of our Instagram group……in this field on the far side of the planet to where I’m from, when suddenly I thought I recognised someone in the distance. I apologised to my chums and edged closer to confirm my suspicions, Sure enough it was Barry, a chap from my hometown who I hadn’t seen in years! I knew he was in Australia but didn’t know he was in Tasmania. Talk about a small world!

After that delightful surprise it was time for the main event; the Wassailing. The what what? You know…..wassailing, when you sing to the apple trees to wake them from their Winter slumber and banish any nasty spirits that may be lurking in their branches……I’ll hold up my hands and admit I had no idea what it was either when it was mentioned. However somehow ending up almost slap bang in the middle of one, I can safely say it is a most uplifting and pleasant tradition. The crowd really got into the spirit of it and made such a splendid ruckus that I doubt there’s any evil spirits whatsoever left in the whole of Tasmania, never mind the Huon Valley!

I’ve spoken before on this blog of my love for tradition and culture, after experiencing some truly wonderful events during our time in the Czech Republic and it’s such a pleasure to see that Tasmanians uphold many of the ancient traditions of the people from where they originally came. In this ever changing and modernising world it’s so refreshing to see traditional practices being kept alive and it was quite humbling to be a part of that. This little island continues to amaze and enthral me and I promise you it will do the same for you if you come and visit.

And now for the usual photos. Well I couldn’t attend a photographers meetup and go through all that explaining without giving you a visual reference now could I? 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Old Apple tree we’ll wassail thee: Huon Valley Mid Winter Festival

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