Options open for a different National Cherry Festival in 2020

The annual cherry pie eating competition may still go ahead
as council staff prepare alternate programs for major events. Photo: file
The annual cherry pie eating competition may still go ahead as council staff prepare alternate programs for major events. Photo: file

Communities are being urged to come up with innovative ways to celebrate the Hilltops region's major events, after Young's National Cherry Festival, Boorowa's Irish Woolfest and Harden's Kite Festival were cancelled in their traditional formats for 2020.

Councillors have opted to engage with communities in an effort to spark ideas to create alternate programs to attract visitors and bolster local economies while also supporting public health.

At council's June meeting on Wednesday night, Cr Wendy Tuckerman advised against inviting thousands of people to small towns for a weekend amid a global pandemic, however, she wants to keep options open.

A report tabled to councillors stated between 4000 and 12,000 people visit the region for council's major events.

"Let's be very clear, events like we have, that's the whole gamut of them, are not going to be possible run as they have previously been run under the current health orders. We as a council need to make a decision about where we're going to head. If we're innovative we could be starting to think about how else we're going to get people to visit our communities and support our small business fraternity," she said.

"I do understand the lack of consultation and perhaps we could be considering maybe going out to the community by saying we're thinking of cancelling these events and we invite submissions in regard to that.

"We have to be realistic everyone. We cannot run them as we have in the past. There's no actual gate takings, there's no ability to take peoples names in regards to tracing if something should occur. We just have to be really realistic about what we're doing and start thinking how else we can get visitors to our region."

We cannot run them as we have in the past.

Cr Wendy Tuckerman

Many councillors noted concerns surrounding public health.

Mayor Brian Ingram also noted the growing number of cases in Victoria.

"I realise things with COVID-19 at the moment aren't as serious as what they are, but we see what's happening in Victoria and that's quite concerning for me, it's really disturbing and I have concerns that may grow which is a worry for all of us.

"If we miss these functions it hurts. But there's been much bigger events called off. I'd hate to take it too lightly and leave ourselves open and endanger anyone's health and safety in our community."

Cr Marg Roles said "cancel this year" and "go ahead reinvigorated next year".

"What if somebody comes down with COVID-19, what if it is spread. I'm not prepared to take that responsibility. We can't go ahead with these festivals as they are, because there's no way social distancing can be a part of it," she said.

Council staff's recommendation to allocate fifty per cent of marketing budgets for each event to increasing visitation to the region and updating event websites, and allocating 50 per cent of the entertainment and services budget for the National Cherry Festival to hosting COVID-safe activities, were included in the adopted motion.

Alternate programs will be put to councillors next month.

HAVE YOUR SAY: