Hopes that autumn might bring welcome relief for residents and businesses battered by a horror summer dominated by the Dunns Road Bushfire have been dashed by the threat of the COVID-19 virus.
Autumn is among the region’s busiest tourism periods, when events like Ciderfest, Rock the Turf, the Festival of the Falling Leaf and the Tumut Rodeo attract thousands of people to the area at its prettiest time.
In a cruel twist of fate, the local council has been given $250,000 to give those festivals a boost in the hope it will attract even more people to fire-ravaged areas.
But all those events now appear unlikely to go ahead.
Organisers across the globe are cancelling or postponing events, hoping to slow the spread of the illness and give medical professionals more time to treat individual patients.
“Social distancing” is the official term being used for keeping people separated from one another and limiting the size of social gatherings.
The first casualty locally is the Snowy Valleys Cycle challenge, which combined a ride of the region’s roads for about 200 cyclists with a market and concert day at Adelong. It’s been called off.
School assemblies and excursions have been cancelled by the NSW Department of Education, along with any “substantial gatherings.”
“The community expects schools to be as safe as possible,” said Mark Scott, Secretary of the Department of Education on Sunday.
“We are implementing these measures to provide peace of mind for students, parents and staff.
“These cancellations also extend to inter-school arts, sports, initiative activities and events.”
Other events either cancelled, or under a cloud, include:
Man From Snowy
River Bush Festival
The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival has been postponed and will not be held from April 2 to 5 in Corryong as had been planned. Organisers said the decision was made “with deep regret.”
“Our team and supporters have worked tirelessly in the lead up to MFSR Festival 2020 often putting it before their personal situations,” said a spokesman, “Please bear with us whilst we chart a path forward.”
The bush festival is looking at a possible event in September, depending on the COVID-19 pandemic and future government advisories.
Rock The Turf
Rock The Turf, the annual Tumut music festival, is still tentatively scheduled for April 4 at the Tumut Racecourse. The event has attracted crowds numbering close to 1000 in recent years.
Organisers shared a message with fans, acknowledging the current concerns and event cancellations. They wrote, “our top priority at Rock The Turf is the safety of event-goers, and as such, our committee are [sic] considering options for this year’s event.” They further assured ticketholders that complete refunds will be issued if the event is cancelled.
The Rock The Turf lineup for 2020 was to include: Jon Stevens, 19Twenty, The Swamp Stompers, The Barren Spinsters, Velvetsmyle, Captain Jack, Colourz, Rockit, Pearl and The Rhythm Sect.
A final decision is expected this week.
Batlow’s 2020 Ciderfest was heralded as the unveiling of a new Batlow, to be held on May 16, after the bushfires tore through the apple-growing town. There’s been no definite decision to postpone or cancel that event yet.
Harald Tietze, who runs Ciderfest’s marketing, said the festival needs a committee decision.
“We work like Ciderfest goes ahead,” but it’s possible that the event might not be held in May this year.
“Of course, if government says no, we have to bow.”
Mr Tietze said the festival organisers will do everything possible to make sure the event goes ahead, but there is no certainty at this point. A marketing meeting will be held in Wagga next week.
Mr Tietze paraphrased a quote from Martin Luther during the time of the black plague: “if I would know that the world goes under tomorrow, I would plant my tree today.”
Several Wagga events have also been cancelled recently, including last weekend’s Mardi Gras Festival and the upcoming ANZAC Day Parade March. It’s the first time in 101 years that the Wagga parade march won’t be held.