Byron Bay Bluesfest music festival returns after two years of COVID-19 cancellations
Music fans are hoping for a fourth chance when the Bluesfest music festival kicks off in Byron Bay on Thursday.
- The Bluesfest is back for the first time since 2019 after several COVID cancellations
- Festival organizers say attendance numbers are close to pre-pandemic levels of around 25,000 people a day
- Festival director Pete Noble says there’s a special surprise in store involving canister and kayak owners who rescued flood victims
The award-winning event was canceled at short notice due to coronavirus concerns ahead of its traditional Easter timeslot in 2020 and 2021.
Plans to host the festival last October were also scuttled by the pandemic.
Things looked grim again when New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region was hammered by back-to-back flooding in February and March, but the site between Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads escaped the worst of the deluge.
With dancing now allowed and artists such as Midnight Oil and Crowded House headlining the festival, thousands of fans are hoping the wait was worth it.
Tickets still available, but forget the parking lot
Festival director Peter Noble said it was “the return of music to a major level”.
He said crowds had rebounded to near pre-COVID levels of around 25,000 people a day.
Although there are still festival tickets available, Mr Noble said passes for the venue car parks have almost disappeared.
“We need to let people know if you’re coming – we still have tickets – but the car parks are almost full, so buy them now or come by public transport,” he said.
The five-day festival will employ around 1,200 workers, host 350 stalls and involve around 400 volunteers.
“So many people say ‘this is the first time I’ve had a job in two years,'” Mr Noble said.
While the Bureau of Meteorology predicted splashes of showers, Mr Noble said it was simply a ‘rubber boot year’ and the muddy site would not put a damper on the spirit of the festival.
“For so many people in our industry — the guys who go out and have to work every weekend and every week to make a living — it’s the comeback,” he said.
Noble said there would be flood fundraisers at the festival, as well as a “special surprise” involving Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg.
Punters clung to pre-COVID tickets
Ballarat’s Warren Anderson bought tickets in 2020 before the festival was canceled.
“Last year I… almost got to Tamworth and turned around and went home. This year I’m going to camp here,” Mr Anderson said.
James Cash has arrived from Melbourne and is spending five days at the festival after buying tickets two years ago.
“I don’t think there’s an Australian who hasn’t been frustrated with the last few years. COVID has been a challenge for everyone…there have been a lot of lockdowns,” he said.
“You watch events like this that are really important to Australia [and] they had to delay things. There were a lot of unemployed.
“But I think every single person that’s here is the spirit of the place and making sure we’re enjoying live music again…and making sure everybody’s having a really good time.”
Loading the form…