Feeling the connection ... festival goers will feel a sense of community at Peats Ridge Festival. Photo: Supplied
MUSIC festivals like Stereosonic might ban men from baring their chests but the organisers of ConFest, an alternative camp-out festival held twice a year near Moulamein in south-western NSW, take a very different approach to nudity.
''Don't be surprised to have a naked ticket collector when you arrive at the ConFest gate,'' the festival's website reads.
''Clothing can range from nothing, to body paint, a coat of mud, a sheet, a fairy costume, even a ball gown or dinner suit.''
Loyalty ... the keystone for Woodford Folk Festival's success lies in repeat business. Photo: Supplied
Far from being a distraction from ConFest's week-long program of music, performances and alternative lifestyle workshops, the naked ticket collector and mud-covered festivalgoers are one of the keys to its enduring success.
''There's always a pressure for festivals to distinguish themselves from each other,'' said Chris Gibson, a professor in human geography from the University of Wollongong.
''It's true to say there's an oversupply of generic music festivals these days.''
The co-author of Music Festivals and Regional Development in Australia, Gibson said the dilemma faced by organisers was to convince people to buy tickets when few of them went to festivals to only listen to music.
Comedians are on the bill for the Falls Music & Arts Festival, while the Peats Ridge Sustainable Arts & Music Festival features an extensive program of theatrical performers, circus acts and environmental workshops.
''The holy grail of festival organising is a loyal set of repeat customers,'' Gibson said.
''That loyalty is important. Festivals that are sustainable in the long-term take that loyalty seriously and see their audience as a community rather than bums on seats.''
Gibson said events like ConFest, which opened on Friday, and the Peats Ridge Festival, which opened on Saturday, generated a sense of community and belonging by making festivalgoers active participants rather than passive consumers.
At least two hours' work is expected as part of ConFest's $80 admission, with festivalgoers also encouraged to hold workshops.
''I really like the fact that all the performances come from the community. There are no paid performers,'' said Madeleine Wolf, who has attended ConFest for more than a decade.
In the past, Wolf's contribution has ranged from volunteering in the first-aid tent to demonstrating how to dance on logs at the festival that was organised by the former deputy prime minister, Jim Cairns, and first held in 1976.
''There are some people who are there because it's a cheap place to get pissed or wasted,'' she says. ''But they are identifiable because they are fairly rare.''