The following is an article by the Huon News, originally published on Wednesday, 16 January 2019. Republished here with permission.
The 37th Cygnet Folk Festival has gone off without a hitch, with perfect weather, a huge abundance and variety of musical acts, workshops and activities, and the Cygnet streets and businesses thronged with locals and tourists alike.
With the festival continuing to strengthen its ties with, and increase the involvement of the local Aboriginal community, the relaxed opening concert again took place on the steps of the South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation (SETAC) in Mary Street, before the SETAC women led the parade to Loongana Park for the official welcome ceremony on the tununnehuk (which means “tomorrow morning” in the local indigenous language) stage on Friday afternoon.
The welcome ceremony was a moving affair, with local Aboriginal woman Julie Dunlop delivering a poignant welcome to country, celebrating last year’s NAIDOC theme, Because of Her We Can.
She spoke of Ma Enid Dillon, who passed away in November 2017, aged 94, after a long life of observing cultural change.
“She watched as we were able to practice our culture with less and less ramifications, educating our kids with the truth,” said Julie in the welcome.
“Today we can see the Aboriginal elders of the future in our children, we are empowered, as Aboriginal people, to act on behalf of ourselves.
“Today, our once silent generation has a voice, we are here, and we are real.”
The ceremony also included welcome songs from the SETAC women, with a special guest appearance from Butchulla linguist and poet Joyce Bonner, Dewayne Everett-Smith and Jesse Lloyd from the Mission Songs Project.
Uncle Rodney Dillon also addressed the audience, speaking of the changes he has seen in the Aboriginal community over his time as an activist, and the inequalities and glaring problems that still need to be addressed.
Huon Valley Council Mayor Bec Enders said that the festival is a major drawcard for the Huon Valley.
“Many visitors will be staying and travelling within the Valley to experience our natural landscapes, enjoy our incredibly talented musicians and artisans, and, of course, the great produce supplied from our food bowl,” said Mayor Enders.
“The HVC recognises the enormous contribution that our community makes to this event and, we thank the orange army, the 2019 Festival volunteers for their valuable contribution.”
Kate Reed, co-owner of Southern Swan in Cygnet, said that business had been strong over the weekend, with bursts of activity as venues emptied out between acts, and the businesses along Mary Street were all crowded with people.
Cygnet Folk Festival artistic director Erin Collins said that she was extremely pleased with the 37th festival, and thanked the local community and volunteers for their support of the event.
“Thanks go out to the fabulous Cygnet community who, not only showcase this beautiful part of the world, but billet our grateful performers from elsewhere, reach out and embrace thousands of visitors to the town and greet them with a smile and true Cygnet hospitality,” said Erin.
“Ticket sales were up on last year, and the perfect weather also brought people out to experience the free community events on offer.
“Most importantly, the music was stellar and our wonderful audiences showed up in droves to show them true Tasmanian support.”
For the first time, the Cygnet Folk Festival Committee, headed by president Anne Foale, took over the management of the market place from the Cygnet Community Arts Council, with Huon Valley local, Michael Russell overseeing the market place operations.
He said that the committee was hoping to ensure that the market was incorporated into the overarching theme of the festival, with the vast majority of vendors coming from the Huon Valley and Channel region.
Food vendors were kept busy all weekend, and commercial food vans were interspersed with community group stalls, such as the Cygnet Living History Museum’s sausage and salad tent and the Lions Club of Port Cygnet’s traditional sausage sizzle.
The acts were spread across numerous venues, from the Cygnet Town Hall, to St James Church, from St Mark’s Hall to the main stage in Willie Smith’s paddock, with the crowd grateful for the new $17,000 shade tent purchased by the committee this year, providing respite from the heat of the day.
There was an increased police presence at the festival, with local police numbers bolstered by public event forces, but police reported that the crowds were generally well behaved, with no real areas of concern.
The Cygnet Folk Festival Committee will only have a short break before preparations for the 38th festival get underway for January 2020.