Because Life Should Be a Festival!

The personal journey of Kevin & Maddi' Parker and their children through festival world. Impressions, depressions, elations, adventures, highs, lows and everywhere we possibly go (thanks BM)....

National Folk Festival Provides Fine Family Value for Easter Holiday

Maddi Parker - Thursday, April 12, 2012

‘Australia’s festival  folk flagship, the ‘National’, draws together people from all around Australia and the world. They come to share in the songs, dances, tunes, and verse that have flowed through the ages from many communities into Australian folk culture.’ Festival Australia's Maddi' Parker reckons that whilst it takes a bit of saving up to get a family of six there, it provides great value for an Easter Holiday with non-stop entertainment and educational opportunities galore.

nff_instrument_makersThe National Folk Festival in Canberra was a wonderful experience. With twenty two venues running a full schedule for over 4 ½ days, we arrived home exhausted and very elated. It was a feast for the eyes at every moment and definitely very good value for money for our family of 6.

There was a space where artisans could exhibit their magnificent handmade musical instruments from harp to ocarina, guitar and bouzouki. Sophie nearly got herself a beautiful first harp at the NFF but where was it going to fit in our trusty vehicle as we travelled around Australia this year visiting festivals? She had to settle on a tin whistle instead.

On the street, musicians busked at every opportunity and street performers gave polished and hilarious performances. Finn and Sophie were ‘discovered’ while happy_kids_nffplaying their flute and harmonica on the sidewalk and invited to perform on stage that night in a youth concert where a number of ten year olds got their first gig at the folkie. Internationally known fiddle players The Davidson Brothers were such buskers only a few short years ago we heard a compere saying.

The Piazza was a central dance floor that programmed a variety of workshops and performances including English clog, Argentinian Tango, Bellydance, Welsh dance, Australian Colonial, North West Morris and Cotswold Morris dance and Swing. We enjoyed a tango workshop one evening that left us feeling in awe of the professionals but very proud that we had a go. Our children engaged in a story about orphan girls called ‘The Girls from the Shamrock Shore’ by the Sydney Irish Dance Ensemble one afternoon also.

The Kids’ festival area was a very gentle space where our two younger girls stayed for hours at a time. There was plenty of engaging craft activities such as finger knitting, painting, jewellery and lantern making, musical toadstools and an interactive box city that continually morphed over the four days. The kids’ stage had continuous workshops and performances of storytelling, humour and music. Peter Combe is well known for the silly song ‘Wash your Face in Orange Juice’ and had a wider aged audience with those reliving their happy childhood memories.

Performances that we enjoyed included the Volatinsky Trio, Stringmansassy, Battlefield Band and Kristina Olsen. We also had a great time kicking back at some of the blackboard events to see all sorts of great acts including a ten year old singer song writer called Lucy Sugerman, a school teachers band (all from one school) and the owners of the delicious Corn Fritters food venue doing a gig. What talent!

Twenty workshops a day were also on the program. We went to Singing with Katie Noonan, Harmonica with Doug Lyons, Tin Whistle for beginners and song writing. Our daughter Sophie attended the Festival Choir rehearsals each day with world music harmony and rhythm master, Andrea Khosa. Sitting in the front row at the final concert and watching her sing in Zulu on the big screen was truly memorable.

In our opinion, the National Folk Festival is definitely a great way to spend the Easter school holidays which is well worth the saving effort beforehand.

Costs involved:

2 x Adult Festival Season Passes  including up to 9 days camping and 4 ½ days festival $350 earlybird ($425 at gate) = $700. With 65 hours of events across nine stages and numerous workshops + camping fees etc at approx $75 per day per adult plus food/drink/goodies.

4 x Children aged 5-15yrs $90 earlybird ($120 at gate) = $360. That works out at $20 a day per child for a complete entertainment and educational package!

Vehicle Pass $25

Petrol to and from Canberra $60

Groceries (including a few more treats for Easter and a week for us away from home) $300

Optional extras – festival souvenirs, CDs, yummy world food, bar drinks, tent hire, program

 $1535 for 6 people for a full program for at least 65 hours over 4 ½ days.

This is an average fo us of $57 per person per day or $4 per person per hour for the festival with world class performances and a constant range of options.

Goulburn Australian Blues Music Festival - Laid Back and Hootin'

Maddi Parker - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Goulburn is a large town on the Hume Highway in between Sydney and Canberra that we have always remembered for its big Merino. Recently relocated to accommodatebig_merino_goulburn Goulburn’s changing traffic flow, the Merino now resides on the southern side at the services stopover for long distance travellers. Our children love stopping for a chance to burn off energy, racing up its hollow body and reading the installations about the wool industry. (This trip we found out that Driza-a-Bones are made from wool.)

In the centre, near Goulburn’s central railway station, is the Tourist information office and a large beautifully kept public park called Belmore Park complete with kids’ play equipment. Surrounded by very wide streets, Belmore Park looks onto the High Street shopping district, full of freshly painted historic shop facades including iconic eatery, The Paragon Cafe.

goulburn_bluesEvery February Goulburn hosts the Australian Blues Music Festival in this central business district. Boasting a full weekend program that includes over 70 free-entry shows, it is a great way to groove away a weekend. This year 11 venues held shows, including Belmore Park, the Centro shopping centre, local pubs and service clubs.

Thanks to directors of The Australian Blues Music Festival, Laing Entertainment, such a wide range of Blues music genres can be found on the program. Their strong understanding and involvement in the music industry ensures that from Mississippi Delta to Bob Dylan country-blues with a dash of folk, boogie and jazz are catered for. Instruments such as washboards, ukuleles, slide guitars, harmonica, drum kits and stomp boxes exist in the Blues mix and can be heard about town jamming or warming up for a gig.

Performances in pub and community club venues enable the Blues Festival to be accessible to everyone to enjoy good music and hear new sounds but with such a list of accomplished and award winning national and international performers, the only rory_ellis_goluburn_bluesproblem is negotiating the program in order to see as much talent as possible!

The bands to play include Halfway to Fourth, Quasimodo Blues Band, Morningside Fats, Hot Flush Blues Band and Dreamboogie. Early in the festival, Diana Wolfe and the Black Sheep played in the park to an appreciative audience. Her strong vocals and contagious sense of humour set the score for a great gig and more to come over the weekend.

Solo artists include Kurt Gentle, Kathryn Hartnett, Paul Robert Burton and Lisa Ohlback. Goulburn boy, Luke Wilton, took the opportunity to come home for the weekend from far north coast NSW. Sharing ‘poetic relatable lyrics with raw earthy vocals’ and (12 string) slide guitar tunes on the APRA/AMCOS stage in Belmore Park, Luke was proud to mention his dad’s Ukulele gig for that evening at the Goulburn Club.

Opposite Belmore Park, The Goulburn Club has an open mic jam over the Blues Festival weekend that may not finish until all hours of the morning. It seems that on Saturday night as venues were winding down, Frank Macias and The UNDERGROUND CITY BLUES JAM were just warming up!

One evening we had a delicious meal at Tatts Hotel and were lucky enough to catch the ‘impossible to pigeonhole’ Rory Ellis (above). His deep voice and wicked humour held the attention of a busy pub and the dining area to his credit. Even our ten year old boy took time off from watching the cricket!

The Australian Blues Music Festival is a really fun weekend, in our opinion, and a great excuse to leave the city for a chilled-out Blues experience with plenty of like-minded (not blue) folk.    









Fine Time at Tumbafest in Tumbarumba - Ideal Family Festival in a Marvellous Region

Maddi Parker - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Last week Festival Australia’s trip to Tumbafest in the Snowy Mountains Region NSW was interesting for our whole family. From a renewable power station to a state border crossing and the pobblebonk frog, we all learnt something about this fabulous country of ours besides enjoying the many merits of Tumbarumba’s annual festival.

On the last weekend in February we visited the western side of the Snowy Mountains Region to attend the annual festival for Tumbarumba NSW called 'Tumbafest'. On our trip south we took the Hume Highway past the ‘Big Merino’ near Goulburn and the ‘Dog on the Tuckerbox’ just outside of Gundagai was a convenient place for a toilet stop and a quick snack. One of the cafes even advertised vegetarian and gluten free food.

Leaving the Hume Highway at Gundagai and heading south on the Snowy Mountains Highway, we stopped in Tumut.  As it was early teatime, we gathered some groceries and delicious freshly squeezed orange juice from the local fruit market and headed to Tumut walking track and public space for a picnic. Our children enjoyed an attempt to circumnavigate the wetlands water system and were proud to return from their adventure with muddy legs and absolutely sodden shoes.

A little too late but we discovered that Freyja’s (6) second pair of shoes for this trip were gumboots, as she thought she needed them not for mud but for the snow! Well, fortunately, there was no snow but beautiful warm summer days and a lovely reminder about the innocence of children.

As the sun was setting we turned out of Tumut to head further south through Batlow in the Snowy Valley. This time of year, Batlow is home to cascading hills of juicy bright red apples. The enormous scale of the Batlow apple industry had to be seen to be believed. Enough apples to feed the country for the whole month we think. We passed by fast growing pine forests and saw some clearfell where the forest used to be. There is also an arbetoreum just off this road that labels many different species of pine trees. We stopped at the Union Jack Memorial to remember the men from the village who gave their lives in World War I.

Nearby is Tumbarumba, our destination. In the beautiful little town of 2000 with a wide main street is a comprehensive Tourist Information Centre on the region with some hands-on demonstrations for children. There is plenty of accommodation to suit all travellers including a number of free campsites just out of town by fast flowing creeks or walking tracks. ‘Grey nomads’ (who are often long term caravanners) say that they choose to stay longer and spend their money in a town such as this, where council have provided a place for them to stay for no cost.

Our family were fortunate to pick up a cottage cancellation at the Tumbarumba Creek Caravan Park alongside the Tumbafest grounds. There is ample space in the park, clean BBQ and bathroom facilities and our hosts, MaryAnn and Malcolm Marshall, were extremely hospitable. They have owned the park since 1999 and seem to have the establishment running like clockwork which is impressive on such a busy weekend. Camping starts from $8 per person and our self contained cottage for a family of 6, is very reasonable for a little over $100/night.


Tumbafest is a festive weekend at the end of February each year that showcases local food, wine and talent in the Tumbarumba Shire plus inviting headline acts. The community help as event volunteers or with their local club to raise funds by providing services such as food and drink outlets. A crowd pleaser and sellout each year is the Tumbarumba Rugby Club’s (rubber) duck races down the creek where each ticket holder has a chance to take out cash prizes. The race is called by radio personality ……… as if it were the Melbourne Cup!

Our family really enjoyed the wide mix of weekend entertainment on centre stage. Headline act, Adam Thompson, had everyone from children to grandmothers dancing in minutes.  He was ‘electric rock’.

Visiting artists The Fabulous Chandeliers (pictured) were great fun, The Little Big Ol Bus Band played a ‘romped up mix’ of both original and retro swing, and recent winners of Best Duet at Whittlesea Country Music festival Carter and Carter embraced country music. Kildare Catholic College performance and local Martial arts demonstration were highly energetic and polished too. Our children, veteran festival-goers by now, also enjoyed TimTim in the children’s tent. His quirky mannerisms and clever wit had them in stitches.

Congratulations to the organisers of Tumbafest and the committee.

 Distant Education Material Galore

Being fortunate enough to have the children schooling with us this year through distance education we were able to wind our way slowly through the Snowy Mountains after Tumbafest finished. We walked into Paddys Falls and found a good camping spot nearby, on Paddys River, too. We also stopped at the Southern Cloud Memorial to commemorate the plane of that name that went down on a flight from Sydney to Melboune in March 1931. The crash site was not discovered until October 1958.

South of Tumbarumba is a tiny village called Tooma. Here, our children played for hours in the river and found a mud pool that they could get messy in and then wash off once again. With a population dotted nearby of about 100, Roger at the Tooma pub is a wealth of information and provider of a fine cold beer.

We continued south and wove a path in and out of NSW and Victoria, passing over the Murray River several times, which divides the two states. The children made jokes that I was taking photos of trees and hills, but I did find the changes in terrain quite fascinating and beautiful, even if it was from a moving car!

Upon entering Kosckiuszko National Park near Khancoban, we took a winding trip along the Alpine Way, to a power station. The Murray 1 Power Station and Visitors Centre is part of the Snowy Hydro Electric scheme, completed in the 1960’s and able to provide power to 1 million houses. The water is used once again downstream to murray2_power_stationconvert into energy at Murray 2 before being released back into the river system as fresh water and thus, renewable energy. Murray 1 has a comprehensive display to check out, but the best bit is on opportunity several times a day to actually go into the power station and see it working. The décor is suitably dated but beautifully appointed as this was the site that the HRH Queen Elizabeth visited many moons ago.

Cloud cover meant that we wouldn’t get to look out from the highest mountain, Kosciuszko, in Australia and see anything more interesting than we could see from the ground, so we headed north to Kiandra, ghost town of the shortest gold rush from 1859-60. Its barren moors and misty hills are mesmerising. 

Following the Snowy Mountain Highway further north, there is a 6km one way track down to Yarrangobilly Caves. Run by the National Parks and Wildlife services, Regina guided us through an underground fairyland that has existed for millions of years as a series of watercourses and slowly developing mineral deposits to make stalagmites and stalactites. I find it difficult to accept that this century’s energy procurement program of Coal Seam Gas mining assumes the right to destroy such an intricate underworld if it got in the way of fracking, in a second.

At Yarrangobilly there is also a naturally heated thermal pool which the children enjoyed enormously. We took the 700m walk downhill to this oasis in the early afternoon and stayed as long as we could to swim in the emerald green water (from algae) and home for the Eastern Banjo Frog, or Pobblebonk.

 We had a fabulous four or five days with wonderful tourist destinations, educational opportunities galore and a fine laid back festival. Tumbafest is recommended.









The Road to Parkes Elvis Via Cowra and Canowindra

Maddi Parker - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Summer holidays may find traffic jams up and down the coast, but not for the intrepid inland travelers who chose the central town of Parkes NSW to discover their inner 'rock'n'roll'.

In it's twentieth year, the Parkes Elvis Festival is a thriving event for the local community and some 12,000 Elvis fans and adventurous people who turn-up. Our journey took us on a 950km round trip with a week full of adventure and new experiences, costing a normal weekly family budget.

Cowra - Worth Stopping

cowra_rose_gardenWe drove out from our Southern Highlands base through Goulburn and Yass aiming to stop for the night at Cowra. 

The friendly Cowra Tourist Information Centre can be easily found at the crossroads into town, adjacent to McDonalds. It hosts a delicious and expansive rose garden that is beautifully presented with each type labelled and luckily for us, in full bloom. The Cowra Rose Garden contains 'approximately 880 bushes of 130 varieties including a bed of the Cowra Rose'.

There is a guided walk from Cowra Tourist Information that leads down past painted murals and the old wooden bridge on the Lachlan River into town, featuring historic buildings of the past century. We met some friendly local lads who were taking a dip in the river who asked us to take their photo which we were pleased to do. They invited us in for a dip but the water was flowing a bit too quickly for our liking!cowra_boys

We followed the well laid out map and walked up past The Old Stone Flour Mill which  is now a winery and function centre and the old-fashioned department store 'Reid Smith & Co' was redeveloped into Cowra Plaza shopping centre in 2000. It was hot and dry and despite our best efforts to engage the children the conditions lead us to curtail our tour and retreat into the shade with an ice block bought from the local Coles.

fancy_that_cowraIn one of those strange moments that occur when most unexpected we were delighted to find a fancy dress shop, 'Fancy That', able to cater for our Elvis Festival needs. Kev and I were instantly transformed into a grungy Elvis and Priscilla, Finn found a black vinyl 'Thunderbirds' jacket and the girls scored pink plaits and groovy clothes. The shop is run by Lambing Flat Enterprises Cowra Breakout with government assistance to train and employ people with challenged abilities.

Conimbla National Park

We stopped for the night in a strip of remnant of Australian bush thankfully gazetted in to the Conimbla National Park located just outside of Cowra. Whilst devoid of facilities, save for a well-cared for drop toilet, it still served our needs well enough, self-contained as we were.

We enjoyed the fact that each camping trip does get easier to pack for. This time we brought 3 smaller tents, 6 sleeping bags, thin mattresses, huge canopy, gas stove, pantry, Esky (icebox), groceries, picnic set, towels, raincoats, first aid, and minimal conimbla_national_parkclothing.

Instead of pillows we brought pillow cases to stuff extra clothes in and a couple of tiny camping pillows. Having listed the above, it is never time to leave home until the car and storage pod on top is so full we can't pack anymore in. We forgot steel wool, washing up bucket, Elvis Cds and a dress up costume ... all of which were solved.

Our children had us in stitches as they settled down to watch evening TV, namely a sign with the details of the National Park upon on it, and then played out a complete imaginary TV episode in their active play!

Cowra Art Gallery

The next day we visited the cool and inviting space that is Cowra Art Gallery which had a fabulous touring exhibition from Grafton which we really enjoyed called the Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award (JADA). The biennial prize 'seeks to encourage and promote innovation and excellence in drawing and plays a vital role in fostering Australian drawing practice'. We were given a warm welcome by Gallery Director, Brian Langer and Administrative Officer Jacque Perry who were rightly proud of what they were achieving at this regional arts hub.

It was fascinating to find that each 'picture' in the JADA,was completely hand drawn when we looked closer as they all presented so differently from a distance. When we each selected our favourite three pieces most of our choices were unique to each  family members. The winner of the lucrative prize was Peter Alwast's 2010 drawing titled 'Trees, Waterfall, Back' (centre picture below). Catherine O'Donnell's charcoal drawing 'One Way' was also a finalist and also one of our favorites.  


 World Peace Bell

When we emerged again into the bright sunlight we crossed the road to outside the Council Chambers to ring the Australian World Peace Bell, a sign of acknowledgement for international understanding. During the second world war, Cowra held Prisoners of War captive and was the scene for the horrendous massacre of hundreds of Japanese prisoners.

We had previously watched a clever holgraphic presentation at the Visitors Centre which explained the story through the eyes of a 1940's young local woman. The script must have been supplied by the RSL as it was a little too jingoistic for our comfort  given the seriousness of the moment with the hundreds of casualties mown down by machine gun, though in fairness, Cowra has made 'reconciliation' a big focus of it's offering.The suffering of all sides in wartime is something that we all regret and no doubt many local Cowra men have also made the ultimate sacrifice during the many wars in which Australia has been involved.


One of the major local attractions is the Japanese War Cemetery and Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre in Cowra that pay respect to this event as the town has no doubt sought to come to terms with this sad episode in it's history. We arrived as a hot uncomfortable wind was sweeping in further aggravating our already fractious children. Given the cost of entry for a family of six to the gardens we decided to give it a miss as our children were not in a receptive learning frame of mind, particularly given the complex morality tale that we needed to put into context.

Age of Fishes

Canowindra is 30km north from there and has a remarkable story. Fossils were discovered lying under the roads that have been dated to 360 million years old.

As we are travelling this year and will be homeschooling our 4 children, we took theage_of_fishes opportunity to ask for school excursion worksheets to fill in at The Age of Fishes Museum which tells the story of the discovery and displays some stunning fossils.

The children enjoyed the moment and we felt that we got value for the $25 family entry fee although the museum would obviusly benefit from further funding to expand it's offering.

Not everyone is able to have a pre-historic fish named after them but museum benefactor James Fairfax does. He will be forever rembered as mandageria fairfaxi , as handsome a prehistoric fish as we have seen!

Parkes Elvis Festival

Arriving at Parkes in the late afternoon we joined hundreds of travelers at the nearby showground for true-blue budget accommodation hosted by volunteers with catering supplied by the rural fire brigade.

Our excellent flat site was in the dog show arena and we were able to take advantage of small metal lean-to for our meals area which saved us putting-up our canopy. With clean hot showers and toilets available the Showground provided a good value option for our family.

Our camping site was also adjacent to the trotting track for our first Elvis event. As the sun set, we enjoyed the first of many Elvis concerts from the what turned out to be one of the better Elvis Tribute Artists the excellent Damien Mullens. From the back of a truck Damien gave lots of energy to the sometimes slightly disengaged crowd who were probably nicking off to place bets in between songs! There was a free jumping castle, sausage sizzle and Elvis lookalike competitions in between races. In the following evenings showground pavilions were used by 'resident entertainers' (or budget travelers) to entertain those of us who were not in town for the night.

 Elvis Express

It is not often that one of the Festival Highlight is meeting a train but Countrylink caught onto this anomaly and with good reason given that the festival named 'Countrylink Parkes Elvis Festival'. Good on them for their support.

 As the train arrives, the bottom end of town swells from a couple of passers-by to a surging crowd complete with horse-drawn carriages, fanfare of music, shiny cadillacs carrying showgirls, media frenzy and welcome by the Mayor in appropriate Elvis regalia. We make sure that we are there to welcome the official Elvis train from Sydney and as if it were a dream, all were gone that very same hour.


As the Parkes Elvis weekend continued we were able to enjoy a lot of fabulous free entertainment at the library, street parade, on Cooke Park stage and in the local pubs and clubs. There was also a registered Elvis busking competition where visitors could vote for their favourite busker. Ours was Big Al from Mount Druitt who came second. The town vendors kept reasonable prices too and we even discovered the best potato scallops and burgers this century at the Cooke Park Takeaway.

In our opinion, Parkes Elvis Festival is a wonderful excuse to take a memorable inland family holiday without hurting the budget.

Expenses for a family of 6 to visit Parkes Elvis Festival (7 days)

Petrol $150 for 950km round trip

Fancy Dress Hire (not essential?) $90

Age of Fishes Museum $25

Camping fees $75 at showground

Local Fruit 5kg cherries/peaches bought at Canowindra $32

Pool $3.90 each was expensive for our family with us spending $80 in pool fees during our hot five day stay.(Suggestion: Festival multi-pass)

Groceries $300

Gas for stove $18

Elvis CD $10

Optional Expenses

Cowra Japanese Gardens $35

Drinks, Ice creams and Takeaway food

Admissions to exhibitions and shows ranged from $5-50 per single entry

Elvis memorabilia ranging from performer CDs to TShirts, wigs, art and cadillacs

to be continued

Sydney Festival Opener- OK But Don't Save Up For It - A 10_Year Old Boys View

Kevin Parker - Monday, January 09, 2012

 "The opening night of Sydney festival 2012 was OK but I did not immerse myself in a bucket load of fun. I would recommend it as a good night out but do not save up for it"

Finn Parker (10) shares his perspective of the Sydney  opening night

Sydney festival 2012 opening night was stimulating and full of eye catching entertainment. The standout act for most was the Stevie Wonder equal, Indigenous Australian, Geoffrey Gurrumul, who was performing for nothing to pay in the Domain.

Although Geoffrey was good, the children’s acts that I saw were disappointing mostly because of the material, but the overall performances weren’t helped with the performer’s voices being average.

To make up for bad children’s music, some good child entertainment was to be found at the festival in the exciting and exhilarating event of Tangled. This occurred in Hyde Park with children queuing up for 100m to enter an area with lots and lots of stretchy, multi-coloured elastic. The place was full to the brim with over excited kids running around enjoying themselves immensely.

sydney_festival_children_festival_australiaWalking down Elizabeth and Macquarie Streets  for the first time in my life watching all the street performers was interesting. And with the striped polychromatic caravans in the background of the well-rehearsed acts it was time consuming fun. I loved having a crack at playing the tuba like instrument the name of which I forget (above- photo credit Sparker).

The best bit about the whole night for me was definitely the energetic South American band Manu Chao. I think everyone enjoyed them because 110 000 people packed Sydney’s main out-door performance theatre, (that is more than the MCG can hold!)

The opening night of Sydney festival 2012 was OK but I did not immerse myself in a bucket load of fun. I would recommend it as a good night out but do not save up for it.

Finn (age 10)

Elvis Presley Whooo?

Kevin Parker - Thursday, December 22, 2011

 Finn aged 10, shares his thoughts about the Parkes Elvis Festival..

The week before last mum and dad told my sisters and me that we were going to the Elvis Festival in Parkes in NSW. Although my parents and twin sister were ecstatic about this info I was less enthusiastic and had a couple of questions.

My first question was, “who is Elvis Presley?”, or words to that effect! I thought that I had better do some research.

It turns out that amongst older people Elvis is still really popular although he died ages ago. I watched some You Tube videos of his music and he was ok. Dad told me that he was the Justin Bieber of his day, I think I prefer Justin.

After some more research, I discovered that 10,000 grown men dress up as this music icon for the 5 day festival in Parkes! Why on earth they hold an Elvis Tribute in the middle of NSW when the ‘King’ of pop came from Memphis, United States is a bit strange really.

I found out that there is a child Elvis look alike competition at the festival. This makes a lot more sense to me because children like me are young enough to embarrass themselves in dress ups -unlike adults whose reputation would be thrown out of most places with these ridiculous antics.

The truth about festivals is that you cannot judge them until you’ve been. It all sounds ridiculous but it could be brilliant. I guess I will find out when we get there.

 Finn (10)

Peats Ridge Eclectic Workshops for Body and Brain

Maddi Parker - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Looking through the Peats Ridge program we have discovered that it is more than just good music and plenty of people to celebrate summer with.

Yes, Xavier Rudd is playing on opening night and Gotye will sing the New Year in, but, with 4 primary school children, our needs are focused on the daytime and peats_ridge_colourfulearly evening streams.

The Children's Festival areas are segmented into three age groups with entertainment for age-specific crowds (under 7, under 12 and teenagers). The colourful programme tells us that there are opportunities designed to 'open yourself up to some new experiences, push yourself out of your comfort zone and forge new friendships', all something that comes naturally to children so should be fun.

Whilst there is plenty going on in the children's areas the Peats Ridge general workshop schedule also includes activitites that appear suitable for both adults and older children together. These include such tempters as Hula Hooping, Belly Dancing, Body Percussion, Acting, Laughter Yoga and Bollywood Dancing!

In the Peats Ridge Eco-Living area, experts will present on subjects such as sustainable fisheries, coal seam gas, deep ecology, solar power and a delightfully provocatively named workshop about the 'religion of economics'. Sustainability manager Nic Moodie will explain why the Peats Ridge Festival is world renowned as a model for sustainable event eco_ideas_peats-ridgemanagement. 

There are also workshops on transforming waste into sculpture, organic pest control, bushtucker, the future of electric vehicles and how to live in better harmony with the planet and why reducing our impact makes a difference.

As we are touring Festivals throughout Australia this year, our children will be primarily taught by us - with so many topics pertinent to education Peats Ridge Festival can hold the 'homeschool' baton for a few days!

Where? Peats Ridge, Glenworth Valley NSW - Just off the Sydney to Newcastle F1 Freeway

When? December 29th 2011 to January 1st 2012

Festival website? Peats Ridge Festival

Summer in Kiama is ... Ice Cream and Circus tents

Maddi Parker - Thursday, December 15, 2011

When we were kids in the early 1980s Kiama NSW was a 'must stop and get an ice cream' town during the summer because of the guaranteed traffic jams as the enthusiastic city folk made their January pilgrimage down the coast. Since then, two major highway bypass projects have meant that getting in and out of Kiama is not only much easier but that the town has a far less frantic feel about it. January still witnesses gridlock in the ice creamery on hot days though!

Kiama is only 2 hours from Sydney (120km) and 1 hour from the Southern Highlands (Bowral/Mittagong) by car which makes it an easy place to visit for a short trip. The hot orange red of the Illawarra Flame trees, rich green of the huge pine trees and salty air give an instant sense of 'sea change', if only for a day.

Over the years we have been very grateful to Kiama for its well kept parks and playgrounds to entertain our four young children for hours at a time. Interspersed with throwing rocks into the harbour and great fish 'n chips we all get a relaxing family day out.

There is a stunning seaside pool tucked below the central caravan park, patrolled beaches and an Indoor Leisure Centre for rainy days. Run by the council, the staff have a fun and reasonably priced school holiday program including craft, gym indoor sport activities and an inflatable pool toy that keeps our family engaged for hours.

Only a short distance from the centre of town, past the picturesque harbour, lies the famous Kiama Blowhole discovered by George Bass way back in 1797. The sight of the water spouting high into the sky has delighted our children many times over the years. The area is very well fenced but vigilance still required for boys and girls going through their climbing phase!

A little further down the coast lie the seaside town of Gerrigong and the hamlet of Gerroa. Both offer lovely views and safe swimming areas. Be warned though,Seven Mile Beach can get a bit rippy and is only patrolled for a few short weeks over summer - fortunately there is a smaller family friendly beach between the Gerroa shore and delightful creek.

The Circus Comes to Town

This summer Kiama is hosting its first seaside Festival (KISS). There will be a circus tent in the centre of town in Hindmarsh Park, surrounded by a living mural community art project that all are invited to contribute to assisted by local artist, Boyde Miles.

On the weekends markets and performers have been invited to bring the streets alive. Evening circus performances and daytime circus workshops will definitely interest our children. A daytime circus skills workshop from 9 to 3pm costs $50 and guarantees 'delighted exhaustion'. It's on the calendar.

From 3-15 January 2012 the KISS Arts Festival will showcase both local and visiting artistic talents and promote the beautiful seaside town of Kiama, NSW which is 2 hours south of Sydney.

Family Friendly Festivals for Summer

Kevin Parker - Monday, December 12, 2011

Most of our festival going over the years was prior to our four young children, although we did manage to get to loads of folk gatherings with our eldest son who is now into his twenties.

Now, with four children under eleven, we are very interested in family friendly events as we set off on our year long 2012 festival odyssey around Australia.

A number of the larger festivals portray themselves as family friendly, but, with the exceptions of Port Fairy, Woodford and the National Folk Festival, we have only attended others as party animals who didn't fall into bed totally exhausted before 10pm! It's now time for us to test how true the claim are of those gatherings who encourage families take part in the celebrations this summer.

As our programme beds down we are considering a couple of options to start off the new year with a bang.

 Woodford Looking as Strong as Ever

We love the Woodford Folk Festival  having been many times.  We had a ball there as singles, as a couple, and have since enjoyed the enclosed children's festival area with loads of activities to entertain and engage our children. Combined with the family friendly ambience of the festival the children's facilities always make the event a strong candidate.

In the past we have brought our own camping gear, although, when our children were very young we took advantage of  the Tent City facility with it's pre-erected tents close to the action.

The 2012 Woodford festival is looking exceptionally good, particularly with 'The Dreaming Festival'(cancelled in June due to storm damage) running in parallel with the regular gathering. The programme has arrived and it a piece of art in it's own right. Woodford runs from Dec 27 2011- 1 Jan, 2012.

Family commitments, the long drive north and financial considerations, mean that we are going to have to give Woodford a miss this year, but we highly recommend it to families with children of any age as a great experience. Be warned, go prepared for the possibility of very hot days and very wet days but the spectacle is well worth it.

This year we will be in New South Wales for our festival quota and have pretty much earmarked the following events.

Peats Ridge

In less than ten years the Peats Ridge Sustainable Arts Festival has become a fantasmagorical 3 day festival to see in the New Year. It has created a children's hub high on the hill where, they tell us, there's 'a whole world of activities and play designed to keep kids of all ages happy'. There’s a designated family campsite, the Festival has plenty of open space and there’s a family swimming hole manned by a Life Guard! The children's programme looks well-thought through.

There is a cool music line-up for teens and adults, as far as we can tell! We were mortified that when we looked over the adult programme as we are now officially now a bit out of touch with contemporary music. Our 10 year-old son, who is up to date, assures us that the acts booked are "really wicked".

The clincher for us is that there are dedicated areas for children of different ages with three specific areas for different age groups (under 7s, under 12s and teens) so Peats gets our nod to see in the new year with style. Watch this space for our impressions.

 Kiama Festival

In Kiama, NSW, the circus tent returns for school holiday workshops, but this time with an entire seaside festival attached. The KISS Arts Festival looks like a real family affair with street performers, kids' circus skills workshops and professional performers in the high top each night.


There will be an opening gala night and other shows including Harvey’s Troupe that produce bold modern circus and Fool's Gold featuring trapeze, acrobatics, unicycling, axe juggling, slack-rope walking, sword swallowing, whip cracking, magic, hula-hooping, stunt car jumping, pogo sticking, roller skating.

We will be enrolling our children in one of the circus skills workshops and spending a day or two in an area that we know well and love.

The KISS Arts Festival  event runs from 3rd - 15th Jan, 2012.

 Parkes Elvis Festival

We thought that we needed a festival that is a little more out of the ordinary, so what better place than a hot, dry Aussie country town full of Elvis impersonators, entertainers and visitors at the Parkes Elvis Festival? This way the children will get to learn both local history and some music history in the same week.

As well as enjoying the five day festival ( 11 -15 Jan, 2012) with it's concerts, parades and a thousand Elvis's, we will be taking in some of the local sights.

On the list:

  • The King's Castle Elvis Exhibit
  • Parkes Motor Museum
  • Henry Parkes Museum (folk history)
  • Pioneer Park Antique Machinery Collection

We also plan to take the children out past the Parkes satellite dish, famous for its role in relaying Apollo 11 telemetry and television pictures from the Moon on 21st July, 1969.

 Sydney Festival

Throughout January the Sydney Festival is offering a variety of children friendly events and we will be trying to catch some of these in between. We will be endeavoring to get to the first day on Saturday 7th January where in the heart of the CBD from 3pm. There is kids live music, street theatre, a double decker bus of dancing music at Hyde Park. Will have to see what else falls into place.

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