Four months ago there nearly wasn’t going to be a 2017 Beechworth Celtic Festival.
But the huge number of attendees at the weekend’s event has the proved the organisers were correct in their decision to not shut it down, but go bigger.
About 550 people packed into the Old Beechworth Gaol exercise yard on Saturday to watch the festival’s first ever tattoo, featuring more than 160 performers.
Titled “myths and legends”, the tattoo featured elements inspired by brass bands, folk bands, dancers and indigenous culture, plus firefighters and soldiers recognised on Remembrance Day.
Committee chairman Roger Humphris said the idea for a tattoo came from a member of a Bendigo pipe band, who did not want to see the Beechworth festival shut down.
“There’s nothing else like it in the close vicinity,” he said.
“Support from the general public has been very, very good and encouraging to the point where this event could really be built into a feature event in the North East - it could be A Day on the Green size.”
Most of the tattoo tickets sold out last week and the small number of extra released on Saturday also sold out in a few hours.
Mr Humphris said he hoped the community and Indigo Council would continue to support the committee in making the event bigger in years to come.
The Celtic festival began on Friday night with a sold-out dinner at The Old Priory, then continued into Saturday with musical, dance and theatre performances through out the Old Beechworth Gaol.
It was the first major event at the gaol since new owners took over and Mr Humphris said the high walls provided great acoustics for the music.
“The venue has been fabulous,” he said.
“The committee is very, very happy with the end result … It’s been everything we expected plus more.”
Some people in Beechworth were unhappy the festival was no longer a free event, costing $20 for entry, but Mr Humphris said even with minimal costs for the bands and performers, it still cost $40,000 to run.
He said it had a flow on effect for the rest of Beechworth, which was buzzing with people during the day.
“It’s got to be good for business, it’s got to be good to put Beechworth on the map and continue the tradition that this event’s had over in excess of 20 years,” he said.
The committee has asked for feedback before they get on with planning for the 2018 festival, opening a survey on the Celtic festival website at www.beechworthcelticfestival.com.au.