2019 saw the sixth annual York Festival run across three weekends during September and October. The Festival, which started in 2014 as a weekend art and craft market, aims to raise the profile of York as a tourist destination and extend the tourist season. Festival Director, Jenny Garroun said “We estimated that last year’s event attracted around 19,000 visitors to York while also increasing attendance from the local community and creating a sizeable economic impact to our town.”
Some businesses reported their best days ever during the Festival, with York Olive Oil reporting the best sales in 20 years. Most accommodation places were filled throughout the Festival period. In addition, there has been a notable increase in tourists from Asia, particularly those coming to photograph the Wara Art giant straw sculptures. This increase continues long after the Festival closes, aided by the Wara Art Trail map produced by the Shire.
The Wara Art sculpture trail of endangered Australian fauna was created by Japanese and West Australian artists, with help from lots of local volunteers. Over six weeks four new sculptures were created, including an 18 metre Murray Cod that visitors could walk through. Other popular events were the Garden Art Trail and the ‘From Hooves to Highways’ exhibition at the York Motor Museum, A Day in Japan, Archery in the Park and the spectacle of the Running of the Lambs costumed obstacle course.
The Festival Committee works hard to create an event that
raises the profile of other important York community groups and events. The 2019 York Festival brought together seven
community entities namely York Arts & Events, the York Motor Museum, The
York Society (Art & Craft Award), the York Garden Club (Garden Art Trail),
the York Friendship Club (Medieval Fayre), the York River Conservation Society
and students from the York District High School (the York Escape Maze). In addition, over seven businesses hosted
events including the Imperial Homestead Hotel (wood chopping and shearing
demonstrations), York Palace Hotel (40 Year Old Pop Star), York Olive Oil (Wara
Art Sculpture trail), Faversham House (Wara Art Sculpture trail), the Sock
Factory (sock making demonstrations) and Gallery 152 (Gallery Nights and the
Sake Malarkey) and the Laughing Moon Gallery (weaving demonstrations).
Planning and implementing the program takes in excess of 2,000 volunteer hours. For the first time this year, The Festival Director will receive a fee. The Committee is delighted to be one step closer to the objective of creating an event that as well as bringing economic benefit to the town will provide employment and training opportunities to the community.
The Committee is grateful to the Shire of York for providing $22,000 funding for the Festival with other funding from the Department of Local Government, Sport, Creative Industries, Healthway, Lottery West, Festivals Australia, the Australia Japan Foundation and Bendigo Bank.
Planning for the 2020 Festival is well underway and a fundraiser quiz night is scheduled for March 21st. The Festival will run from Saturday 26 September to Sunday 11 October. Contact York Arts & Events Chair Jo Bryant on 0411 287944 or Festival Director Jenny Garroun on 0419 707 755 to find out how you can get involved.