Every year, we plan to visit Launceston during the second weekend of February, and we did just that for Festivale 2014. Warm sunshine and blue skies were the order of the day, and along with a large crowd of other happy people, we soaked up the atmosphere and sampled some of Tasmania’s famous gourmet delights.

Festivale 2014 - Beer and Oysters

Festivale 2014 program, beer and oysters

Focus on Fine Food: Festivale 2014

Upon arrival, we grabbed a program and flicked through the schedule as we relaxed with a Boag’s beer and an oyster-tasting plate from Clover Hill. Super-duper organised festival-goers can download the program via the Festivale website and plan their assault up to six weeks prior to the event. We were confident we’d find something to please our taste-buds once we’d arrived at City Park in Launceston.

It was a comfortable drive from Hobart to Launceston on the Saturday morning. Previous years we’ve stayed overnight in the north of Tasmania, so we could enjoy multiple visits to the three-day festival. This year we tackled a day-trip, and managed the journey without incident. The only difficulty was attempting to limit the choice of samples we could reasonably consume in a single day. With many stalls offering such a wide variety of Tasmanian goodies, it’s worth devoting several days to eating and drinking!

Festivale 2014 - Mixed Oysters

Oysters three-ways: Festivale 2014

Festivale 2014 - Ashgrove Cheese

Very fine dairy platter: Ashgrove Cheese

Festivale 2014 - Wallaby Burger

Tasting plate: wallaby burger, Tasman Quartermasters

Despite a large crowd in attendance, enjoying the very warm summer weather, we were amazed at the lack of queues. We parked the car with ease and very close to the entrance. We walked straight through the gate with our pre-paid tickets. Never did we wait too long for service at the food and wine stalls. And here’s the miracle of all miracles… not once did we spot a long line of anxious women stretching away from the ladies toilets for miles on end. The organisers clearly got the ratio right there! When asked by the MC for a show of hands (Launnie residents v others), the visitors outweighed the locals ten-to-one. We can’t underestimate the fantastic experience for tourists that constitutes the annual Festivale event, including the accompanying celebrity lunches and wine tours. What a boost it would give the Tasmanian economy.

Festivale 2014 - James Boag

James Boag, sponsors: Festivale 2014, Launceston

Festivale 2014 - Large Crowd

Large crowd enjoyed the atmosphere: Festivale 2014

Fun and Games in Launceston

The entertainment at Festivale 2014 matched the quality of the food and beverage stalls. Some nervous Nellies were steadfastly refusing to make eye-contact with roving performers, but most people embraced the humour and banter. Robin Hood and his Merry Band were taken aback when one of their “chosen” patrons was named… Marion! They had a field day with that.

With Launceston temperatures reaching an unusually high 35C, you have to respect Tubby the Robot. He must’ve been absolutely roasting in that tin suit, but he roved around with a great deal of patience for excited photographers. He scared the bejeezus out of one poor child, but continued undeterred with a quick-wit as the life of the Festivale party.

Festivale 2014 - Robot

Tubby the Robot was so much fun!

As Carol Haberle wrote in her article, City Park in Launceston is a gorgeous place to visit any time of the year. But during the second weekend in February, the popular place is the perfect venue for Festivale. With enough shade for everyone provided by the elegant and substantial trees, you would be truly hard-pressed to suggest a better environment for a food and wine festival.

The musical program for Festivale 2014 earned another feather in the cap of the organising committee. Ian Moss graced the stage as the headline act on Friday night, very capably supported by a host of talented Tasmanian performers throughout the weekend. It would be difficult to choose a favourite, but if pressed we’d probably nominate Pete Cornelius for his funky rock-blues.

Festivale 2014 - Launceston City Park

Launceston City Park: Festivale 2014

Festivale 2014 - Music

The Usual Suspects, musical entertainment: Festivale 2014

Planning Ahead for 2015

Given the heat of the day, it was good to see the designated driver catered for. Tasmania is known to produce some top-quality non-alcoholic beverages, as well as award-winning wines, beer and cider. For those who’d had a few drinks and were contemplating a drive home, a breathalyser station was available for onsite, voluntary testing. Good idea!

Festivale 2014 - Drink Responsibly

Non-alcoholic refreshments: Festivale 2014

We’d strongly recommend you plan to attend Festivale 2015; it’s one of the premier things to do in Tasmania. With lots of family entertainment, clever and talented buskers as well as on-stage entertainers, there’s something to keep everyone amused. And of course you’ll never go hungry or thirsty!

We attended Festivale 2014 as guests of the organising committee. The award-winning food and wine festival is held annually in February at Launceston City Park. We’ve been sharing details and images via our website and all social media channels for Festivale, a registered member of Think Tasmania.

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