31 May 2023

Winter festival coming to shine a light on what the South Coast has to offer

| Claire Sams
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Swimmers walking along the shore

If you’re after bragging rights, the cold water swims at the WinterSun Festival are returning in 2023. Photo: David Rogers Photography, courtesy of Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing.

A festival that has been “embraced” by locals is returning to Merimbula to chase the winter blues away.

Breeze Hub owner and WinterSun Festival director Lynn McColl said she was overjoyed at the strong community response to the festival, which is returning for its third year.

“It’s fantastic that something hatched mid-COVID and post bushfires to liven up Merimbula on the long weekend when the traditional jazz festival was cancelled has been embraced by the community.

“People are really excited about it, which makes me really happy,” Ms McColl said.

The WinterSun Festival will be held 9 to 11 June in locations around Merimbula.

“I think that part of the reason the local community has gotten on board with it so much, is because it is so representative of Merimbula,” Ms McColl said.

“It’s all about the water, it’s all about our beautiful coastline, it’s a really sustainable event and I think people really love it because it’s great fun.”

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In 2023, festivalgoers will be able to participate in old and new events.

The WinterSun Design Exhibition will run from 9 to 12 June at Hillcrest Merimbula from noon to 4 pm.

For the adventurous, there will be the Mitchies Jetty Salty Swim (100 m), the Jetty to Jetty Lake Swim (1.2 km) and the Wharf to Wharf Challenge (which has walk and run categories this year).

Those with four-legged friends can register for the inaugural (and free) Pups on SUPS competition at Mitchies Jetty in Fishpen Road.

Aside from the race, there is a best-dressed competition for the best outfits on the day.

Additionally, there will be Streetfest on Market, family-friendly activities planned at Top Fun to keep youngsters entertained and WinterSun-themed food and drink specials at Kitty’s Bar Sunday Sesh.

Howlin’ Mitch and the Habaneros, Kara Coen and Michael Menager Trio will be performing throughout the festival.

“I look at WinterSun like it’s a tasting plate of Merimbula in winter,” Ms McColl said.

“It’s particularly for people who don’t ski or don’t want to go skiing on their holiday.

“It’s a really wonderful alternative to traditional winter pursuits.”

The festival is named in honour of a Merimbula and Pambula surfboard brand that was also called WinterSun, popular from the 1960s to the 1980s.

“Merimbula’s changed a lot since then, and I wanted to connect the present to the past.”

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For those who will visit Merimbula to get involved in the fun, Ms McColl had simple advice on what to wear.

“If you’re going swimming, you need swimmers.

“We’ll be serving lots of hot food and coffee, that sort of thing, straight after the swims so people will be able to warm up,” she said.

“I’d say bring your scarves and beanies and gloves and jumpers – and if you don’t need them, take them off.”

Ms McColl said she hoped the WinterSun Festival helped to promote what winter in Merimbula could offer.

“We want to show off cold water swims and great challenging trail runs and hikes and really fabulous local produce – whether that’s food or wines or spirits or beer – and our great local musicians.

“All the while harking back and paying homage to that original WinterSun surfboard brand.”

The full program and sign-up links can be found online.

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