March 12, 2018
The South Burnett Wine and Food In The Park Festival delivered a $500,000 economic boost for Kingaroy and nearby towns on the weekend, despite rainy conditions.
The popular annual event celebrated its 19th outing at Memorial Park on Saturday.
It saw crowd numbers increase over last year’s outing and local wineries sending out for extra supplies around sunset.
The relaxed, friendly atmosphere which has characterised the festival in recent years drew a warm response from patrons, and police said they were very pleased with the crowd behaviour.
The festival is organised by South Burnett Events, a volunteer group set up in 1999 to create public events for the region and promote tourism into the area.
This year the festival underwent a generational change with a new executive taking the reins after former long-serving members retired.
But regulars seemed pleased the new crew opted to retain all Wine and Food’s most popular features as well as add a few new ones, such as a hay bale craft beer and cider bar.
WAFITP president Dafyd Martindale said the new committee had to battle with several issues simultaneously for the 2018 event.
One was the end of a five year sponsorship deal with Downer Mining last year; another was the need to train new committee members in how to put the event together; and a third was that every two years the Festival competes with the bi-annual Apple and Grape Festival in Stanthorpe, which was held the weekend beforehand.
A fourth hurdle was that the weather was less than ideal, with overcast conditions and light spritzes of drizzle throughout the day that turned into a steady stream of rain in the festival’s final hour; and a fifth was a demand by licensing authorities to put a wire mesh fence around the entire festival area.
“That would have cost us a fortune, but fortunately Darrin Kefford from Kingaroy Joinery and Pink Fencing stepped in to help us, and we can’t thank them enough for their tremendous community spirit,” Mr Martindale said.
“Despite all of these hurdles, we had a great day and the feedback from people who came to this year’s Wine and Food has been incredibly positive.”
The festival costs about $45,000 to $50,000 a year to produce, and it recovers its costs from $20 entry tickets and bar sales.
“Every year we have a handful of people complaining about a gate entry fee, but honestly what is $20 these days?” Mr Martindale said.
“Last time I looked it will buy you four cappuccinos, two breakfasts at Maccas, or two tickets to the cinema to watch a 90-minute movie.
“We provide 8 hours of entertainment and all the facilities you need for a relaxed, really fun day out; bonus water and slushies with entry tickets; free wine tastings; and tables and chairs to eat and talk at.
“We also provide the knowledge the money you’re paying is actually going to help other volunteer groups who do wonderful things with it like installing defibrillators, building community facilities and running great events of their own.”
Most of the money the festival generates is used to pay other community groups like the Kingaroy Lions, Taabinga Rotary, the Kingaroy Netball Club and other volunteer organisations for their help on the day.
The festival committee also hires tables, chairs and furniture from South Burnett businesses, engages local security services to ensure a happy and safe day for patrons, uses local media to advertise the event and in recent years has opted for an all-local music line-up to support South Burnett performers.
“We estimate that around $35,000 of our costs are spent locally, and the other volunteer groups who help us use that money for their own community projects, which is helping to build a better South Burnett for all of us as the years roll on,” Mr Martindale said.
“The day is also a good money-maker for our region’s wineries and local food vendors who come along, and just like our community groups they reinvest it in our region, too.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is that gate surveys have shown roughly half the crowd who attend Wine and Food each year don’t live in the South Burnett, but come from all over south-east Queensland and interstate.
“Some stay with friends in Kingaroy, but the rest give our accommodation operators a good boost every March,” Mr Martindale said.
“Many go on to tell their friends about the South Burnett and come back at other times to see other parts of our region.
“We’re very pleased our festival is a positive tourism ambassador for the area.
“Local hotels, the RSL and many cafes and restaurants also get a boost from Wine and Food every year.
“The last time we looked at the direct and indirect economic impacts the festival creates, Wine and Food In The Park helps put about half a million a year into the local economy.
“And if we have anything left over at the end of it – some years we don’t – we put that into making improvements to the park, such as the great power system we have now thanks to Ergon, which has done away with the generators we had to use in the early days.”
The next Wine and Food In The Park will be the festival’s 20th outing, and Mr Martindale said the committee are planning something special for the occasion.
It will be held on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Disclosure: Dafyd Martindale is also the CEO of southburnett.com.au