Each year the magical and colourful village of Woodfordia comes alive over six days and six nights from 27 December through to 1 January for the Woodford Folk Festival. This year marked the 34th year of the festival and the carefully curated program was jam-packed with performances, talks, workshops and experiences to showcase the 2019 theme of Imagining A Beautiful Future.
It had been almost 15 years since our minds were blown with our very first one day Woodford experience and since then we have experienced the festival as overnight campers, season campers and overnight campers in the Tent City Motel.
This year we were experiencing Woodford for the first time with our niece Miss 9 and nephew Master 7. They were super excited, up for anything and wanted to do everything we could fit into the day and a half we had.
We downloaded the Woodford Folk Festival App prior to arriving and had customised our schedules. With so much on offer, we had quite a few overlaps, but the app was brilliant with keeping us up to date with what was up next so we didn’t have to keep scouring the program. We were planned enough, but still open to the impromptu findings you encounter while wandering around the festival that add that extra bit of magic to the overall Woodford experience.
The absolute highlights for the kids from the festival were:
The Children’s Festival
The Children’s Festival is a festival inside a festival! It is a wonderland built especially for kids and a hive of fun and laughter. The kids could have easily played the day away here if their main festival program choices had not clashed. They tie-dyed, made rock figures, moulded clay, screen printed, sewed bags, painted, drew and we were able to bring home what they made as mementos from the festival. They were in heaven.
To give you an idea of how much is going on in there, eight full pages are dedicated to the Children’s Festival program within the Woodford Folk Festival program. Over the duration of the festival, there are more than 260 performances and workshops with a new program daily. Kicking off at 8 am each day and running up until 5 pm, there are nine venues with circus, drama, craft workshops, environmental discovery, music mentoring and performances. There is also a café, areas for free play and for lounging, and the best part it is all included in your festival ticket.
Around the festival
Mr Gorski had the kids in stitches with his miming, juggling and comedy, M.I.N.D.E.D with Elements Collective was an intense play of dance with no words and had the kids glued to their seats with what they called “dance fighting”. They shook their little booties in an Afro-Brazilian Drum-Dance Workshop, and the story of the Bobble Wobble Birds and the Gangle Dangle Spider overhead on the high wires had them open-mouthed watching in awe. They got right into THE GAME in our team effort as they met colourful crazy characters, were dared, talked to rats and frogs on bridges and followed clues and worked out puzzles. They played and bounced between the sounding harps on the way up to the Bamboo Treehouse where they had a quick explore then hung in some hammocks for a quick rest in the breeze. The evening show by the lake Eyeland: A Death In Fishtown and the creatures of light wandering around the festival were a hit with all of their vivid colours and shapes.
Food Glorious Food
It is truly a feast for the senses on the streets of Woodfordia with the diversity of what is on offer from around the globe. The kids’ favourites were Spaghetti Junction Pizza, Fruzen frozen yoghurt, Byron Bay boysenberry Doughnuts, Tuna Sushi from Gourmet Japanese, freshly-baked butter croissants from French Gourmet Crepes, koftas from Govindas and mango and passionfruit slushies from Frozen Sunshine.
Lake Gkula is the largest all-natural conservation and recreation lake in Australia and is Woodford Folk Festival’s newest edition. Chemical-free and complete with all-natural systems to keep the water clean, Lake Gkula is abundant with fish and plant life. It has rocky areas to explore, sandy beaches, waterfalls, tables and chairs to relax around, a café and showers to wash off in after your swim. Each swim session is 50 minutes long and can be booked online through the app or at the Lake Gkula ticket booth. Tickets are $4 for adults, $2 for youths (13-17 years), $1 for kids and toddlers.
What a game-changer for the festival this was. We were lucky enough not to have the usual oppressive heat of Woodford this year and most of the time was overcast, but we were still welcoming the relief of being able to go for a swim. Lake Gkula really did add a whole new level to the festival experience and it was definitely the kids’ favourite part. It is important to note that swimming sessions in the lake are for season campers, volunteers and performers only, and there are no refunds or exchanges. All festival patrons do have access to a lakeside bar, where they can sit with friends and enjoy the view.
Experiencing the Woodford Folk Festival through the eyes of the kids this year was just magical. Hearing their laughter and seeing the wonder in their eyes as they discovered everything for the first time refreshed all of the excitement we felt when we first experienced Woodfordia. The Festival is fantastic value for money and brilliant family-friendly fun. With such a carefully curated program for both parents and children alike, there really is something for everyone. If you have been thinking of heading along to the festival, most definitely add 2020/2021 into your calendar now, you won’t be disappointed.