Woodford Folk Festival Fire Ceremony

7 Myths about the Woodford Folk Festival

Sometimes mums get it wrong. And when it comes to Woodford, mine really goofed up.

Growing up in a country town, my family would collectively snigger when the Woodford Folk Festival rolled up to the nearby hills. To us, it was a secret jamboree for society’s odd bods and misfits, a suspicious place full of fairy-loving leprechauns in satin shoes and new-age harp-playing Puks.

“That place is for hippies,” my mum would warn.

So after years of fearing the good folk of Woodfordia, I decided to experience it for myself.

Oh Mum, how wrong you were.

Woodford Folk Festival has to be one of Australia’s greatest all-music, all-entertainment events. Between the quality guild stores, the tummy tempting food stalls and the educational outlets proving that yes, you can recycle those plastic shopping bags artistically, the dozen or so big top tents pulsate harder than a Chinese New Year dragon dance. The experience was beyond my imagination.

So where else did mum get it wrong?

Myth #1: Woodford is an event for teenage fringe dwellers

Kids at Woodford Folk FestivalIt’s not. Around me was a cross-section of society: Pops, tots, and 20 to 40 somethings. And – if you take off the requisite wacky hat and tie-dyed T-shirts, there were a lot of average blokes and blokettes. Here, people were happy, spontaneous and very respectful of differences. Yep, even the jaunty Irish jiggers were accepted for their derring-do. For Mums and Dads, it’s also a festival for the little ones with puppet and acrobatic shows, family yoga sessions and even circus classes held daily!

Myth #2: Woodford is a fried food fest

woodford_food_martin-ollmanFearing little but the Aussie “sauso” sausage roll, I fuelled up before going in. Big mistake. I missed out on stuffing my pie hole (even more) with scrumptious, healthy, exotic flavours – ranging from gently simmered Middle Eastern tagines through to organic gluten-free brownies – and all served in fantastically themed tents. Seriously, this place should be called the Woodford Folk Feast-ival.

Myth #3: You can just rock up to a headline act

WoodfordMaybe, but this is serious stuff and the queues for the likes of Kate Miller-Heidke and John Butler were long. If you don’t want to sit on the periphery, then get to the tent an hour early and stake out your spot. If you’re too late, no worries. Drop by another tent and check out an unplanned act. I landed a box office seat at one of the best blues gigs I’ve seen since spending a week in Memphis.

This year there’s a killer line-up of tunes coming your way from a delicious menu ranging from pop rock and blues to world folk and reggae.

Myth #4: You can do it in one day

Woodford mystical beingsNot possible. Do as those all-knowing hippies (oops, I mean the corporate types with the temporary funny hats, do) and camp. Woodford has an orderly tent city amongst the trees just footsteps from the big tops. What that means is if you miss Archie Roach the first time around, you can catch him the next day. It also means you can go for the music, but you get the entire experience.

So make those massive love-heart floral arrangements, the ginormous all-watching mystical beings, and colourful creatures part of a multi-day eye-popping experience.

Myth #5: The toilets are, ahem, “dirty”

Woodford Folk FestivalWrong. While they can’t take on the Toto with its warm seats and six shades of power wash, these forest loos left the “bush squat” for dead. There was ample toilet paper, extremely clean facilities and not once did I need the emergency ration roll stuffed in my handbag.

Myth #6: It’s expensive

Woodford Folk Festival Fire Ceremony

Image by @p_perez via IG

With adult day tickets starting from $161 (this season: Dec 2017), you get more than 12 hours of fun, making it about the same price as a three-hour Bruno Mars ticket. Alternately, grab a six-day season pass on sale for just under $540 and blow out the new year blues for an extended period.

Tuned out? No problem. With over 2,000 performers and 438 events, Woodford Folk Festival is also ground zero for cabaret acts, acrobatic workshops puppet shows, and a host of topical discussions with the likes of Australia’s favourite science guru, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

Myth #7: It’s a personal experience

Fire Ceremony Woodford Folk FestivalAbsolutely not. Go with a group of friends… Woodford Folk Festival is too good to keep to yourself. And for a fraction of time, you get to escape reality.

Besides, the entire festival is centred around a message of ‘connectedness to each other’, and this year’s theme “How We Wonder” gives you time to reflect on just how you fit in the universal scheme of things.

Why should you go?

Woodford Folk Festival MusicOver 120,000 colourful performers, talented artists and party people pour into Woodford Folk Festival for six days of entertainment, music and art. That means you can take in thousands of shows, workshops, talks and cabarets, or just sit back and watch hundreds of street performers weave their magic. For music lovers, big-name international and local acts like Lucy Gallant, Sampa the Great and Diamond Duck will hit the stage.

But the real magic is at the beginning and the end of the festival when the signature fire ceremonies bring together hundreds of performers, giant puppets, fireworks and flames. It’s a ceremony that becomes more spectacular with each passing year.

Have you been to Woodford? What was your experience like?

*This story was first published in 2014 and updated in November 2017.