Boolarra Folk Festival wins again! – June. 2011

The BOOLARRA FOLK FESTIVAL has again been voted “Most Popular Community Event” at the Latrobe City Business Tourism Association – People’s Choice Awards 2011 held at Morwell on 27 May 2011.
Congratulations and well done to everyone involved in the organisation and running
of this very popular and important event on the Boolarra calendar.


LATROBE CITY BUSINESS TOURISM ASSOCIATION (LCBTA) has a 12 member committee with a mission “To provide positive leadership and marketing of the Latrobe City as Gippsland’s Regional Tourism Centre to maximise the opportunities and benefits of tourism while integrating local business.” LCBTA’s focus is to provide support with business development, networking and marketing to regional operators and businesses in order to increase visitor numbers, visitor expenditure and length of stay; thereby creating increased employment and growth for the regional economy.

In April 2010 LCBTA hosted the inaugural People’s Choice Awards at a Gala Night held at The Traralgon Vineyard. The 2010 awards were a great success with over 208 businesses receiving in excess of 2900 votes cast by their customers. Winner of the “People’s Choice Award 2010” for “Most Popular Community Event” was our own Boolarra Folk Festival.

The success of this event prompted the organising of the LCBTA People’s Choice Awards 2011, incorporating 13 categories covering Excellence in Customer Service, Most Popular and Good Access is Good Business. Voting commenced on 1st February 2011 and at the Gala Awards Night held on Friday 27th May 2011, our own Boolarra Folk Festival again received the “People’s Choice Award” for the “Most Popular Community Event”. Other contenders included Carols by Candlelight Traralgon, Moe Apex Bonfire, Traralgon Show, Walhalla Wound Up – Traralgon Harriers.

Congratulations and well done to everyone involved in the organisation and running of this very popular and important event on the Boolarra calendar.

Does the Folk Festival have a future?

The annual Boolarra Folk Festival, held on Saturday 5th March in Centenary and Railway Parks, was as usual a very successful event. We estimated that there were more than 6,500 people in attendance throughout the day.

Traffic counters set up on Monash Way and on the Boolarra / Mirboo North road found that approximately 2,600 extra vehicles visited the town on festival day, compared to the Saturday of the previous week. Survey data indicates that on average 2.5 people travelled in each vehicle, therefore the number of people travelling by car via the two main roads was at least 6,488. Others who enter along other roads, locals who leave their cars at home and walk and the 34 people who travelled by bus on the day are extra to that number.

All feedback from the event was extremely positive and people were impressed by the friendly community atmosphere of the day. Survey results and observations of people attending the festival indicate that this is very much a family event and people generally come with their partners or groups of family/friends.

Many people commented on the uniqueness of the festival, how rare it is to have an event that caters for all age groups, where everyone just mingles happily together.

The standard of the music and the quality of the market stalls got a big rap again this year, as did the overall organisation of all things associated with the festival.

Of the 139 people surveyed 135 said they would like to return again and 4 were unsure. 17% of people surveyed were from Melbourne / Metro area, 82% from Gippsland and 1 % from other areas such as Ballarat, Bardwell Park NSW, Queensland and Exeter in South Australia.

Approximately 50% of people learnt of the festival through word of mouth. Local newspapers and radio also got the message out to many people.

Interest in the Boolarra Folk Festival continues to increase. Between 1st January and 6th March 2011, Boolarra Folk Festival website had 1568 visitors, 73% were new visitors to the site.

We know from our economic impact study that the festival generates hundreds of thousands of dollars on the day throughout the region. No other one-day event in Gippsland has attracted such large crowds as consistently as the Boolarra folk festival. The challenge for the organising committee has always been to provide a free event.

Although the festival’s finances are currently sound we only cover around 25% of the running costs on the day. Selling of festival merchandise, market stall site fees and money from the raffle make up most of that 25%.

The rest of the money needed comes from our sponsors who provide either financial or ‘in kind’ support. Without them there would be no festival, let alone a free event. Our main sponsors, in particular Latrobe City and International Power have not wavered in their financial support for this community event, their commitment to fund for at least 3 year periods has allowed us to confidently plan ahead each year.

After nine great years the challenge ahead now is ‘how do we keep the festival going?’ Those of us who have been involved since 2002 have seen the workload increase for some of the committee positions, particularly during the last three years. Unless at least 4-5 people come onto the committee this year at the AGM to be held on 28th July 2011, the festival may not last. We need these new people to replace long term committee members who are standing down next year. I have spoken to some of the current committee members about the festival’s future and they are adamant this wonderful event should not be allowed to slowly die, however, it is generally agreed that if new members cannot be found to come onto the committee this year, then they suggest that the 2012 festival should be the last.

An enthusiastic person is needed to work with the current President (Ray Stewart) over the next year to take over that role after the 2012 festival.

The positions of Volunteer Co-ordinator, Treasurer and Minutes Secretary need to be filled while Wendy Stewart is still involved and able to give some guidance. At least one person is needed to assist the current Grants Co-ordinator (Leanne Blake) with funding applications and acquittals. Kristy Mills and Darren Cornell both joined the committee last year and both did a great job in their respective roles this year, however more people are needed if the festival is to survive.

Ray Stewart