BUMPER CROWD: Young and old flocked to Woodford Folk Festival this week. The event wrapped up last night and organisers have predicted record crowds.
BUMPER CROWD: Young and old flocked to Woodford Folk Festival this week. The event wrapped up last night and organisers have predicted record crowds.

Woodford keeps vibe for record-breaking 129,000 crowd

A RECORD-breaking Woodford Folk Festival has bucked a trend that is seeing a sharp decline in attendance and collapse of music events across the country.

Festival director Bill Hauritz said rather than struggling to hang on, Woodford this year has stepped up a level with new venues, altered layouts and festival patrons who forged a unique partnership with organisers.

"There's a lot of energy but this is the most peaceful, beautiful event we've held," Mr Hauritz said.

"It's not about great decisions I've made but about 2000 volunteers making great little decisions and the quality of the performers and visual artists taking care of every one of the thousands of songs that have been sung and the detail in the design.

"This is also the cleanest festival I've ever seen. There is nothing lying on the streets, which means the patrons are taking care.

"We are the luckiest people in the world to have the patrons we do.

"Organisers and patrons at this festival are equal partners."

The festival organisers were last night on track to declare the 30th annual Woodford Folk Festival had reached a record attendance of more than 129,000 people.

"We went into the festival a little down (on numbers)," Mr Hauritz said.

"But we've had a 25% increase in day visitors on last year on some days.

"We're very happy. This has been a very special event."

The success comes as the collapse of Soundwave, the demise of Big Day Out and the cancellation of Harvest, The Great Escape, Good Vibrations and Homebake festivals in recent times have raised serious questions about the viability of music events. Woodford has always been about a quality diversified program that allows patrons to design their own festival within a festival.

"Festivals are always precarious," Mr Hauritz said.

"We're a $10m business, totally dependent on patrons to come through the door and spend at our bars and stalls.

"We get some government funding but the operational funding is less than 2% of our income.

"Last year, we generated $30m in gross spending (in the region) independently assessed."

This year's Woodford has thrown up some surprising hits including the combination of three Macedonian orchestras at the circus show to deliver a world first and what was a brilliant world-class experience.

The band Hot Potato has also been a hit and Mr Hauritz is still trying to work out just who was the New Year's Eve act playing in a venue for 500 people that had attracted an audience of 2000 gathering outside and around it.

"This has been an extraordinary festival,'' he said.



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