If you were out and about on the Hobart waterfront on the first weekend in August, you would have seen a lot of familiar faces from the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival. AWBF volunteers were out in force to deliver the 2018 Australian Antarctic Festival on behalf of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation. The festival celebrated Hobart as Australia’s Antarctic port and saw around 21,000 people through the four days of the event, including 7,000 people who toured the Antarctic ships Aurora Australisand Investigator. In what many saw as a warm-up session for the wooden boat festival, 180 volunteers came forward to help Tasmanian school children discover the fascinating world of Antarctic science at CSIRO and IMAS.
We are now thick into planning for the next MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival, just 23 weeks away. Every time we do this, we try to take on board lessons learned from previous festivals to fine-tune the way the site is laid out. We also have to deal with changes to the festival site each year. Hobart City Council, TasPorts and private landholders don’t stand still between festivals, of course, and we accommodate changes to pavements, roads and footpaths, changes to the configuration of docks and moorings and new businesses opening almost monthly. Since the last festival in 2017, we’ve seen the completion of Macq 01 hotel, re-development in Salamanca Place, demolition of 10 Murray Street and numerous smaller changes to what we can do and where.
Our primary job is to accommodate our own wooden boat owners but we’ve also got to deal with giant cruise ship operators, busy restaurateurs and marina berth leaseholders, exhibitors, vendors, emergency services and landowners. There are always going to be some conflicting needs, of course, and we try to steer a middle course that keeps the festival safe, accessible and free.
‘I want my boat to be accessible to my friends and easy to board.’
‘I want nothing placed in front of my business, so people can see it and come in.’
‘I want a good trading site, close to the centre of things, where it’s busy.’
‘I don’t want any festival marquees blocking my view of the sea.’
‘We need safe, fast access with wide open lanes in case of emergencies.’
These are real comments we have fielded over past festivals and we do try hard to please everyone. There are also less visible reasons why the site is laid out the way it is. Power supply, plumbing, waste handling and toilets are all part of the picture. Sometimes we listen to patrons with absolutely 180° different opinions. The Waterside Tavern, for instance, stands squarely in the middle of the Festival site. Some say that it shouldn’t be there, because it blocks the open view of the marina. Other say the open terrace is the best place to look at the boats, while relaxing with friends and a cool glass of wine. We note that people tend to vote with their feet and the Waterside Tavern is packed from morning ‘til late, providing welcome shade and sea breezes with a great view.
We also like to shake things up a little with every festival. That means favourite attractions in new locations, moving entertainment to where the people want to hear it, more action on the water and better access to boats in places like Constitution Dock and Elizabeth Street Pier North. Got your own wish list of where things ought to go? Drop us an email, because we’re working on it now!