Sunny skies has festival organisers wondering what might have been

Jess Howarth, Kathy Pearce and Debra Halloran at the Festival of the Falling Leaf Comedy Gala night at the Montreal Theatre on Friday night.

Organisers of the Festival of the Falling Leaf were left wondering what might have been when the forecasted downpour didn’t eventuate on Saturday.

The organising committee called the festival off on Thursday as 50mm of rain was forecast for the day.

While the rain bucketed down heavily for periods on Friday night, ideal conditions prevailed the following day.

“We were very disappointed we had to make the call on Thursday,” Festival chair Michael Cichocki said.

“Stallholders were pulling out on Thursday. We held off as long as we could but the weather report from the RFS said there would be 50mm of rain and thunderstorms.

“Stallholders were worried about their products being damaged. It was very frustrating that the forecast didn’t eventuate and we could have held it on Saturday, but the rain that fell on Friday night could have fallen on Saturday.”

Mr Cichocki said that if they had locked in the stage performers and others involved in the entertainment, and then had to cancel, they would not have been able to recoup the cost.

Former Tumut Mayor and Snowy Valleys Councillor Geoff Pritchard has stated his strong belief that the festival should revert to its previous format, centred on Wynyard Street.

Mr Pritchard believes that the organisers the festival  must look to its past to shore up its future, arguing the cancellation would not have happened in the past.

“It needs to revert to what it was, a country procession down the main street,” he said. 

“If there was wet weather, they would put on their wet weather gear and press on. You would have an announcer on the Royal Hotel balcony who knew all the people there and said funny things. You would have trucks and the town band, it was weather-proof, you would have local people, country people, it was a country festival.”

Mr Pritchard believes Bila Park is not the place to have the event.

“Vehicles and trailers get bogged there and have to be pulled out,” he said.

“Parking is no good. You can’t have kids running around and falling in the river.”

He believes that the entertainment schedule needs a rethink.

“It’s supposed to be an old fashioned festival to attract people to our beautiful surrounding and autumn foliage,” he said.

He also doesn’t like the idea of people having to pay for admittance.

“To barricade it off and charge people to go in there is appalling,” he said.

“I get a thrill out of seeing the floats going down bringing back old memories, like a harvest festival.”

Mr Cichocki said organisers have made an effort to increase the entertainment value of the event, and having it in the main street means an ever-increasing amount of red tape regarding traffic management.

However, he said the festival management wouldn’t rule anything out.

“We are going to reconvene as a committee and discuss various options,” he said.

“We welcome feedback from people, and we invite anyone who wants to become a committee member including anyone involved in the various festivals over the years.”

Despite the main part of the festival being cancelled, a significant part of it went ahead successfully, that being the Comedy Gala at the Montreal Theatre on Friday night.

About 200 people got along to this.

“There were a lot of local faces and it was good to see them getting behind the event,” Mr Cichocki said.

“It would have been nice to fill the theatre but we were pleased with the turnout, especially the mixed crowd demographics. The comedians took the house down; there were no awkward silences. They were impressed with the theatre and appreciated the turnout on the night.” 

Previous articleBourke to guide prolific backmarker in Queen of the South
Next articleCycle Classic money attracts hospital specialist