Could Canberra's tourism revival be fuelled by food and drinks and music? That's the question we're asking as the line-up for the next month falls into place as more events return to the capital.
While major events such as the Multicultural Festival, the Night Noodle Markets and the National Folk Festival won't go ahead, it's opened the door for the "micro-festival" - smaller one-day events catering for a niche market.
We'll still get to enjoy Enlighten, from February 26 to March 14, and the Balloon Spectacular and Symphony in the Park will also go ahead in the lead-up to Canberra Day. But with COVID-19 seemingly under control in the ACT, event planners are looking here as a location to stage their first events under new operating structures and reduced numbers, confident that the ACT government's regulations and restrictions will ensure events will go ahead.
David Marshall, chairman of the Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum, said it was a matter of looking for innovative ways events could be held.
"All you need is a little lateral thinking to see how you can spread people out a bit and events are COVID-safe," he said. "We haven't had a community transmission here since March last year, that's phenomenal, as long as we can maintain that then I think events should take place.
He noted the success of Floriade Reimagined, where the festival was held on different sites throughout Canberra "but at the same time our aim is to attract interstate visitors and unfortunately Floriade didn't do that".
More than 4000 people are expected to gather at the Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival on March 20 with extra space allocated on the grounds of the Mercure hotel in Braddon.
What started as a small gathering with three brewers in the courtyard, is now a day-long showcase of beer and cider with more than 40 local and interstate exhibitors filling up the rear carpark - and this year the adjoining lawns along Batman and Gooreen streets will also be utilised.
Festival director Dan Gaul said the expansion of the event was made possible as a result of a grant from the ACT government to support such events.
"We're grateful for that as the extra space makes it possible for us to spread out and make sure it's a safe space for everyone," he said.
"When COVID hit a lot of people in this game struggled but now we're allowed to start up again the community has just banded together to get these events happening. We know that people want to get out and have some fun and it's great that we're able to provide opportunities for them to do that."
The festival will be split into two ticketed sessions from 11am to 2pm and 3pm to 6pm. All transactions will be cashless, with a simple tap-and-go system in place for purchases. There were still negotiations occurring over final numbers but Gaul is confident they'll reach the 4000.
The weekend after, March 27, Wine Machine rolls into Canberra with Peking Duk, Lime Cordiale and Hot Dub Time Machine headlining the festival in Commonwealth Park. Wine Machine held one of the world's first COVID-safe events in WA in October 2020 and similar protocols will be in place for the Canberra event.
As well as a line-up of top artists, there will also be Wine Machine's trademark gourmet festival fare with a selection of local producers and wine makers alongside activations for wine lovers.
If you can't wait that long, Summer Salt comes to Canberra for the first time on February 27 at Stage 88. On the card are The Teskey Brothers, The Cat Empire, John Butler and Emily Wurramara. On top of showcasing the best of home-grown Australian artists, Summer Salt will also bring cultural attractions, in a family-friendly environment, placing a very heavy emphasis on local community and sustainability.
In April, Groovin' the Moo returns, taking over the grounds at EPIC on April 25.
The ACT government has recently launched a $2 million campaign to encourage interstate travellers to Canberra. Chief Minister Andrew Barr will also announce $1.5 million in the budget for a new COVID-safe tourism investment program, through which the ACT government will provide matched funding.
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