They breed ‘em big in Tasmania, and Big Willie, Tasmania’s hottest man, certainly stood tall and proud, with impressive shoulders and a nonchalant air, ready to set the night sky alight for the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival in July.

Based on pagan rites to chase evil spirits from the apple orchards in the depth of winter, the festival involves much wassailing, pan banging and cider consumption.

On Friday night, they fired up Willie with a flaming arrow launched by an archer. Saturday saw the crowd coursing through the orchards singing to the apple trees to guarantee abundance in the coming harvest.

This is a popular celebration with the local community, and many took the opportunity to dress for the occasion.  There were olde English hats decorated with tall feathers aplenty.  Maidens were adorned with flower-filled head dresses, and revelry was high.

The appropriate food for such an occasion is hearty and the rolls from Matthew Evans’ Fat Pig Farm filled with shredded pork belly, basted with unctuous juices, certainly captured my taste buds.  They were not ransomed until I dug into Bintes (potatoes) and char-grilled cauliflower covered with oozing grilled Heidi Farm raclette and pickles from Ramonas.

I didn’t try the barbecued chook and pumpkin but got to give full marks to who ever invented the Hills Hoist rotisserie.

 

Food from Fat Pig Farm

The appropriate food for such an occasion is hearty and the rolls from Matthew Evans’ Fat Pig Farm filled with shredded pork belly, basted with unctuous juices, certainly captured my taste buds.  They were not ransomed until I dug into Bintes (potatoes) and char-grilled cauliflower covered with oozing grilled Heidi Farm raclette and pickles from Ramonas.

What I didn’t get to try were the Alfred Gough pies from Hobart Butcher Alfred Gough who has been making pies since 1942. Unfortunately, with only one stomach and so many foods to try, other such as Lady Hester’s Persian inspired warm doughnuts, and Deep End Farm’s steamed buns will have to wait for the return visit.

Dragon breath

Although there was cider aplenty, our drink of choice was a glass of warm mulled wine, available in both red and white.

It was a cold night.  Cold enough to do dragon breath after the mulled wine as we headed to the stage for the important part of the night.

It took a lot of interpretive dance, fire twirling and declamations from a story teller but eventually, the evil spirits were defeated by a young maiden.  Freed from the grip of winter, the sun rose again, and an archer set Willie on fire with three flaming arrows.

Practice your wassailing

On Saturday night, the wassailing got underway.  Here are the words in case you want to practice.

 

Old Apple tree we’ll wassail thee,

And hoping thou wilt bear.

The Lord does know where we shall be

To be merry another year.

 

To blow well and to bear well,

And so merry let us be.

Let every man drink up his cup

And health to the old apple tree.

Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival and Tasmania’s Hottest Man

In 2018 the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival will be held from July 13 to 15. It is located at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed which is a 30-minute drive south of Hobart at 2064 Huon Highway, Grove Tasmania. There are festival busses running from Hobart and Cygnet and throughout the Huon Valley.

Where is the Huon Valley?

The Huon Valley is one of Tasmania’s best drives, and it starts just 30 minutes from Hobart at Huonville where the highway meets the Huon River. You can do it as a day trip or overnight at one of the small towns along the way.

Stay at Salamanca Wharf Hotel in Hobart, and it is an easy 30-minute drive to the festival.

Disclaimer: EdbK travelled with the assistance of Tourism Tasmania and stayed as a guest of Salamanca Wharf Hotel.

Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival