Emily Frawley returns to her quaint hometown of Yackdandah in North East Victoria for the town’s annual folk festival.  

Having A Gander In Yackandandah

As far as I’m aware, I am the first person to think up the above slogan. Horrible as it is, there are many other similarly bad novelty t-shirts featuring the town’s name that are available for purchase. And if it turns out that I really am the first one, then I offer it up to be marketed by whoever might see the value in it. I’m more than happy to share the joy around.

After all, that’s what the Yackandandah Folk Festival is all about.

This year, 2013, marks the sixteenth year of the Yackandandah Folk Festival, which means it was that many years ago that a small group of locals decided to muster up a little community spirit and put on some music at the town hall. Everyone had a blast; they came to hear some twanging, four-part harmonies and stayed for the scenery and Beechworth Pale Ales.

One couple even chanced upon the festival as they were driving through and thought to themselves, “any community as creative and caring as this is one that we want to be part of.” They promptly bought themselves a block of land and were somewhat confused when the festival ended and life was pretty normal again for the next 364 days.

But they weren’t disappointed for long, the festival’s success sparked a whole-community appreciation for the arts and the town now has a thriving dramatic society and choir that rehearses all year round.

Yackandandah itself is a leafy country town in the valley of Stanley State Forest, in Victoria’s North-East. Silos, farm machinery and bags of cow manure for sale fringe the outskirts of town, and residents fall asleep to the sound of cicadas, then wake to mooing cows in nearby paddocks in the morning.

The village is peppered with heritage-listed buildings, most of them found in the main street where the festival’s Sunday market takes place. Beginning with the newly-renovated Town Hall, it’s a slow, sunny meander down to the aptly named Bottom Pub at the end of the street. The buskers are plentiful, from earnest, guitar-strumming local teenagers to the enigmatically named ‘Campbell’, a true blue swagman who travels between the festivals of Australia, reciting his bush poetry.

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of folky music happening here at the folk festival, with a range of local and international acts to enjoy. Having said that, it’s fair to say that it’s the general atmosphere that keeps folk coming back each year.

Well worth a visit is the antique shop of ‘Curios-ities’ where you can buy a sewing pattern for a onesie and discover inside it the hidden treasure of a 1978 Yackandandah Primary School newsletter typed by ‘Miss Norma’ and wishing everyone a happy term holiday. There’s also the local town mannequin sitting creepily in the shop window, always good for a gander.

The Yackandandah Sports Park is converted into a cosy marquee, decorated with reams of fluttering tie-dyed flags and the Yackandandah creek bubbling in the background. Saturday night offers a sumptuous fundraiser picnic in the Memorial Gardens hosted by the school mothers, which was followed up this year by a candle-lit Earth Hour acoustic set in the Town Hall.

It must be said; the show stealers of the festival are the Community Choir. With a well-rehearsed set of musical numbers that includes everyone from the most senior members of the town to a five-year-old girl up the front eating a pie she was supposed holding up as a prop.

It’s these endearing moments of the festival that make you feel like you’re a part of something special. Because it is.

The 2013 event is set to take place March 22-24.
For more information visit folkfestival.yackandandah.com

// Emily Frawley is a member of our Virtual Internship Program. If you’re a photographer or writer looking to break into travel journalism, we’re here to help you get a leg up. To find out more, email us at   interns@australiantraveller.com