Ciderfest faithful still celebrate… alone

Harald Tietze and Ray Billing battle over a bratwurst sausage at Ciderfest 2018.

Last weekend was supposed to be the grand reopening of Batlow, risen as a phoenix from the ashes. It was Ciderfest 2020, but instead of crowds of cheerful cider lovers, there was heavy machinery continuing the bushfire cleanup and one cider enthusiast wearing a long, pointy hat.

“I will wear my ciderfest hat and cry,” said Harald Tietze in the leadup to Saturday’s non-event. The annual one-day festival was canceled more than a month ago as Covid-19 fears and restrictions started rolling out.

“Perfect weather, it’s nice weather,” lamented Mr Tietze, also the festival’s marketing liaison, commenting that in eight years, it has never rained on Ciderfest day, even if there was heavy rain the night before the festival.

“A beautiful day,” he sighed. “We are higher up in Batlow and closer to heaven, so we are very well looked after.”

Mr Tietze said the decision to cancel Ciderfest this year was difficult and organisers ultimately decided not to hold an online event, since it would be nearly impossible to host the full range of small cider, produce, arts and crafts stalls online.

“It’s too much to do, and we don’t get the effect or the turnover for the people anyway.”

Business overall has been quiet in Batlow, as families recover from the fires and adapt to Covid-19. The temporary halt on tourism has also affected farm gate stalls and accommodation providers. 

As the town and the overall economy starts to recover from the virus’ effects, Mr Tietze said there was “zero” chance of having a large government-sanctioned public gathering this year, making it unlikely that there will be any Ciderfest in 2020.

“The biggest ‘fest’ in the world is in October (Bavaria’s Oktoberfest) and it is cancelled,” he said. “Because people gathering in large quantities from so many countries is dangerous.

“Next year we definitely want to do Ciderfest, but I’m pretty sure not this year.”

Oktoberfest 2020 has indeed been canceled, with the announcement from Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter and regional Premier Markus Soder coming April 21.

“I’m sure that we will see another Oktoberfest in 2021 – hopefully under different conditions by then. Until then, I must beg your indulgence that there was no other solution,” said Mayor Reiter.

Reflecting on the different impacts of coronavirus felt in Europe, the USA and Australia, Mr Tietze said he was very glad to be living in the latter.

“We here in Australia are lucky, which is wonderful,” he said. “The coronavirus response is very well organised, with very few deaths not like other countries like Spain or Italy or America. 

“I am always happy to live in Australia, but with coronavirus I’m very happy to live here.

“I think Australia has handled coronavirus like no other country. I’m very happy with how we’ve handled it and the people are quite good.”