COLOURFUL: Billy Jean, Sar Weety and Arwe Tharyet at the 2014 Woodford Folk Festival.
COLOURFUL: Billy Jean, Sar Weety and Arwe Tharyet at the 2014 Woodford Folk Festival. Vicki Wood

Woodford Folk Festival tops Australian Tourism Awards

IT started with a simple three-day music festival at Maleny that attracted just 900 people.

Today Woodford Folk Festival is Australia's best major event having taken out the gold medal at the 2015 Australian Tourism Awards ahead of the Melbourne Cup, a race said to stop the nation.

After the success of that first music festival, Bill Hauritz, its long-serving director, wrote that the event was the right size and did not need to get bigger.

In 2015, Woodford will celebrate its 30th anniversary as a festival that annually attracts 120,000-plus people for six days of music and ideas, featuring 1400 shows on 23 different stages. Woodford annually is Australia's largest gathering of artists and presenters, featuring everyone from some of the country's most popular and emerging musicians to former prime ministers.

Mr Hauritz predicts the tourism gold medal for best major event will boost international and national visitation to the festival.

"Having that sort of recognition will make the difference because it will allay fears that Woodford is just for hippies and folkies," he said.

He described the award as great recognition of the support of Tourism and Events Queensland which had worked closely with organisers to help promote Woodford.

"They have been great," he said. "It's also recognition for the massive effort put in by organising group members present and past who have contributed so much. I hope all feel some credit from this achievement."

Through donations from festival patrons and the efforts of volunteers, the festival site has been revegetated with 110,000 trees and through good planning, developed the water, sewage and energy infrastructure to support a gathering of patrons greater than the population of a regional town larger than Nambour.

More than a third of Woodford's patrons come from interstate or overseas, helping to generate the independently assessed $20m of economic benefit the festival generates annually for Queensland. Tickets for the December 27-January 1 festival are on sale.


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