Katoomba’s Winter Magic festival will not happen this year.
A number of issues, including crowd size, safety, traffic management, risk assessment, funding and a lack of volunteers has combined to force the cancellation of what would have been the festival’s 25th anniversary.
Festival president, Rebecca Tyson, said: “Our list of problems is varied and unless we can find a magic solution, we have no time to plan the 2018 festival.”
The committee voted at the end of January to postpone this year’s event after the traffic management company said it didn’t want to work on the festival “in its current state”. Since then, the committee has tried to find solutions, Ms Tyson said.
A meeting of association members was held on Monday night. A number of interested members of the public also attended and, while there was a desire to see the festival go ahead, it was decided that it would be impossible to organise in a few short months.
“Our issues were discussed at length,” Ms Tyson said. “Our problems are that our volunteer resources are not enough and we need to address funding and safety issues to ensure that the festival is sustainable for the future.
“We need big changes and a huge amount of support."
The festival also needs a major sponsor to help defray costs, which have soared in recent years. The traffic management alone has almost doubled and the festival also needs a professional risk management plan drawn up.
The festival, which is estimated to have contributed $2.4 million to the local economy last year, has become a victim of its own success, according to committee member and stalls co-ordinator for 2018, Jim Carothers.
“We really did give it our best shot, but our festival has simply become too large to be managed in all its complexities by such a small group in the time frame required. In fact I find it simply amazing that previous committees – sometimes even smaller than ours - were able to deliver such quality events on what is really a shoestring budget.”
Monday’s night’s meeting included “a larger group of concerned citizens than most council meetings I've attended”, Mr Carothers said.
It was in “uniform agreement that we must not proceed until the issues of crowd size and risk management have been comprehensively addressed to the satisfaction of local emergency agencies”.
“We are working on these matters, but have simply run out of time to meet deadlines which cannot be stretched. In a nutshell, our festival has become a victim of its own success.”
The committee voted on January 29 to cancel this year, which would have been the 25th festival. There were concerns from the traffic management company, which said it didn’t want to work on the festival “in its current state”.
Ms Tyson said the cancellation of the 2018 festival would allow organisers time to re-create Winter Magic into an event of national significance when it returned next year for its silver anniversary.
It would also provide time to address resourcing issues faced by the festival which has been run exclusively by generous volunteers for more than two decades.
“The Winter Magic Festival has grown into a major event for the Blue Mountains and now it’s time to refresh the program for our community,” she said.
“With this growth, we need to find ways to better resource Winter Magic and meet the changing requirements associated with event management.”