Uncertain future for Winter Magic Festival

Organisers of Australia's biggest street party, the Winter Magic Festival which celebrates the winter solstice, say the event s long-term future is in jeopardy. It needs a major sponsor.

Organisers of Australia's biggest street party, the Winter Magic Festival which celebrates the winter solstice, say the event s long-term future is in jeopardy. It needs a major sponsor.

It's been a victim of its own success and now its very future is threatened.

Katoomba's Winter Magic Festival, which celebrates the winter solstice and unlike many festivals run by chambers of commerce and councils is run by the community, was to have its 21st birthday next Saturday, June 21 but its continued future is now in jeopardy because of increased costs due to its popularity.

Last year a crowd of 40,000 thronged Katoomba Street. Overall costs for the event exceed $100,000 with a large portion going towards public safety measures including road closures (a traffic management plan), signage, insurance, first aid and the clean-up.

President Sharon Peralta, a mum of six, is a member of the small committee actively running the festival and issued a cry on the site's Facebook page last week indicating the show just might not go on.

"Like a lot of things in life nothing is guaranteed and while this will be the 21st anniversary of the Blue Mountains Winter Magic Festival, it is unknown whether this free annual community event can carry on," Mrs Peralta wrote.

"The Mountains community has been hit hard economically over the last year and we understand financially a lot of people haven't been able to contribute as they might have wanted to.

"We get a lot of small support from locals but we really need a corporate sponsor, it's a real issue.

"People need to know that last year's festival actually ran at a loss."

Most of the money raised comes from the day's stallholders, not a large corporate or government sponsor.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill said he was "sorry to hear the festival is facing challenges".

"As a unique, community-run event with a long history, council understands the Winter Magic Festival holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the community. Other than the standard event application process, council has not been approached by the WMF 2014 committee to discuss any aspects of the festival management, including financial difficulties," he said.

The mayor made the annual $1350 donation to ArtStreet in the lead-up to the festival as part of council support for some 70 events in the region in the past year.

Last year the event received a donation from Destination NSW, but they have had no luck with another one-off grant application relating to sustainability, after special efforts were made by organisers to look at waste.

Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) chairman Daniel Myles said he had "enormous regard for the organisers of Winter Magic and feel their concerns very deeply".

Mr Myles said it would be "a very serious loss of profile for the Mountains as attendance at events like Winter Magic drives repeat visitation for months afterward".

BMLOT was keen to work with festival organisers and other stakeholders to "address the ever increasing costs of staging these important occasions ... in particular developing and enacting traffic management plans has become more expensive and complex than many hard-working volunteer committees are comfortable dealing with".

BMLOT members including Lilianfels, The Carrington, Fairmont Hotel and Scenic World were financial sponsors "indicating the high value that the tourism industry places on Winter Magic", Mr Myles said.

Mark Jarvis, Katoomba Chamber of Commerce president, said his group had not directly contributed financially to the festival in recent years but said the "demands imposed re traffic management have to be looked at closely". Mr Jarvis is co-owner of The Carrington which is a major sponsor and has bailed the event out financially several times.

Carrington Hotel co-owner Michael Brischetto, also a former Winter Magic president, said the festival was worth more than $2 million to the local economy and was one of the major cultural events.

"There is no financial support from council (they actually get paid over $8000 for garbage and food safety inspection) and costs like traffic control increase annually due to more and more road closures required by the police.

"It would be a very sad day for the community if it ceased to exist."

This year organisers will pitch for donations from the crowd prior to the parade and at the festival information stand.

"The Duchess of Nostralia and her posse of Royal Rovers (The Ruby Bloomers Women's Circus) will entertain and announce the arrival of the grand parade at 11.30am and hopefully collect vessels of cash," Mrs Peralta said.

"If every person gave one dollar, just think, that's a lot of money," one of the committee members added.

The 2014 sponsorship proposal can be found on the group's website: www.winter magic.com.au/sponsors.


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