Organisers of the Dragon Dreaming Festival are confident the event will go ahead as planned and residents of Wee Jasper village are thrilled.
All 2500 tickets to the annual music, arts and lifestyle festival held on the edge of Burrinjuck Dam in Wee Jasper sold out within 36 hours.
It’s a limited allocation given the festival is approved to host 4500 patrons for the event planned to run between 1-4 October, but organisers will release more tickets if the NSW Government eases COVID-19 restrictions further.
A Dragon Dreaming spokesperson said they were looking forward to returning to the remote village with a new direction after a two-year break.
“The music, arts and festival industries have been among the hardest hit by the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and this has definitely caused financial stress for all artists and event organisations. But with this silence has also come some dedicated downtime for artists to focus on their art and we look forward to hearing and seeing these creations come to life at the upcoming festival,” the spokesperson said.
This year, organisers will collaborate with the Regrowth Tree Planting Festival to plant trees on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival on the Wee Jasper property owned by Helen and Ian Cathles.
The spokesperson said the trees would help to restore land attached to the property that’s welcomed festival-goers for the past six years.
“The restoration project has been envisioned in collaboration with the property owners and intricately planned by professional bush regeneration consultants,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Cathles said she thought it important for every business to have sustainability credentials and that the project would increase the number of local trees such as kurrajongs, yellow and white box, and red gums on their land.
The trees will be maintained and watered by a contractor employed by the festival and organisers hope to get Wee Jasper Public School involved in the seed propagation.
However, the festival’s increased focus on sustainability doesn’t detract from the bad publicity it has received in the past.
Police regularly confiscate large numbers of drugs at the festival entrance and a 23-year-old woman died from a drug overdose at the festival in 2015.
Local police also opposed Yass Valley Council’s 2020 decision to grant the festival a further three-year approval from 2021 to 2023.
However, the Dragon Dreaming spokesperson said organisers had a “multi-level approach” to mitigating drug use at the festival, which included working with police, drug educator DanceWize, private security and medical staff.
Helen and Ian Cathles opened their property to the festival six years ago because they supported its ethics.
“It’s about people, relationships and community, which Ian and I think are the most important values,” Ms Cathles said.
She believes drug use at the festival is comparatively lower than other festivals.
“The statistics show it’s much lower than other public events such as the footy, horse races and music festivals… and while people can bring in alcohol, it’s not sold at the festival like others,” Ms Cathles said.
Mel Reynolds is secretary of the Wee Jasper Community Association and said the association was pleased to hear the festival was returning.
“We have always been impressed with the very professional delivery of the festival and the fantastic atmosphere that is created with participants embracing the special connection to country and the picturesque surrounds,” she said.
The association is able to raise funds for Wee Jasper’s public school, volunteer bushfire brigade, memorial hall and tennis courts by running a food stall at the festival each year.
Ms Cathles believes the food stall has raised $55,000 in total for the village of 80 people.
The Dragon Dreaming spokesperson said organisers are currently working with NSW Health to develop a COVID-19 plan and will be watching restrictions closely.
They also said they are still working on the 2021 program, which will support local and interstate musicians and artists.