9 June 2022

Icy reception to the cancellation of Tumut's Falling Leaf Festival

| Edwina Mason
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Autumn trees

A picturesque autumn in Tumut means it’s time for the Falling Leaf Festival. Forecast extreme weather forced cancellation of the 2022 event – and then blue skies prevailed. Photo: Tumut Tourist Information Centre.

The last-minute cancellation of this year’s Festival of the Falling Leaf, due to forecast extreme weather, has resulted in a frosty outcome for organisers, who are now rallying to make reparation.

There was already community disquiet around location, ticket prices, the loss of several festival favourites such as the street parade and fireworks display at the Tumut event but then the weather gods played a final trick.

Instead of the forecast 50 mm of rain, there were ideal conditions on the day set to celebrate autumn in the mountains town.

It was an unfortunate outcome for Falling Leaf Festival president Michael Cichocki, who was forced to make the call to cancel the Bila Park event the Thursday night prior. He said the committee made the decision based on the best advice available at the time.

“We took the matter very seriously, we have risk management policies in place and a responsibility as hirers of the venue to our patrons’ and artists’ safety and to our stallholders,” Mr Cichocki said.

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“We can’t make the call the night before, people travel from far and wide to provide the entertainment, food, infrastructure and to participate in the markets.”

Amid calls for the festival to revert to its previous old-fashioned street parade format centred on Wynyard Street, Mr Cichocki is spearheading an action plan to determine public sentiment.

The organising committee is asking for suggestions, via a public survey, to determine a way forward.

“Community consultation over the last 10 years or so has strongly influenced [the current] format and, as a committee, we want to engage with the public to find out what they’d currently like to see at the event and how they’d like to be involved,” Mr Cichocki said.

“This survey seeks to determine the community’s preferences regarding the Falling Leaf Festival, including questions about what type of attractions people would like to see, the preferred location and what other events the community would like to have included in the festival format.”

Historic street parade

Residents are keen to see the festival format revert to the Wynyard Street location with street parade and fireworks. Photo: Falling Leaf Festival Committee

Mr Cichocki said The Falling Leaf Festival Committee had been an independent incorporated association since 2021 and profits, if any, went straight back into the next event.

“We’re no longer tied to Snowy Valleys Council and we need the community and local businesses to get behind the event so that it can continue,” he said.

The survey also seeks volunteers to be involved in the ongoing management of the festival.

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“Volunteer involvement is crucial,” Mr Cichocki said.

The committee is particularly keen to hear from young people and people with specific skills like event management, accounting, governance, business, logistics and customer service.

“Any help will be gratefully appreciated,” he said.

After the survey closes, the committee will review the responses and deliver the results to the upcoming annual general meeting, which will also be calling for volunteers to take up executive positions.

You can contribute to the survey and have your say on the future of Falling Leaf Festival at here.


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