AN EXPECTED anti-Islam rally has forced the cancellation of a wine festival anticipated to inject more than $500,000 into the local economy.
The rally and counter-rally are planned as follow ups to last month’s protests which ended in ugly scenes and violent confrontation between the 650 activists on opposing sides.
Bendigo Winegrowers Association spokesperson Cliff Stubbs said he was frustrated and extremely disappointed to have to make the call to scrap Heritage Uncorked which was scheduled for October 10.
“We made this decision in conjunction with council and after consultation with Victoria Police who we understand were unable to barricade off Pall Mall to prevent protesters marching along the exact place where we were likely to have upwards of 700 people enjoying fine food and wine,” he said.
“We had to make a decision which ensured the safety of our patrons and based on what happened at the last rally we decided that we couldn’t allow them to be exposed to potentially ugly clashes like the last time.”
The owner of Burnt Acre Vineyard said BWA would now have to refund 400 tickets – a total of $48,000.
Mr Stubbs said the event often sold more than 700 tickets, with the majority of patrons visiting from out of town. The event itself is not-for-profit, with money raised through ticket sales used to pay seven local restaurants to provide entrees to patrons.
He said the event was a valuable marketing opportunity for winemakers.
“Particularly for smaller wine growers like us, this event is hugely important in terms of our exposure,” Mr Stubbs said.
It’s not just individual winegrowers who will miss out on exposure and sales – council City Futures director Stan Liacos told the Bendigo Advertiser on Thursday the festival directly injected upwards of $400,000 into the economy through accommodation and other expenses from tourists.
Mr Stubbs said organisers were forced to make the decision to cancel in advance before caterers began buying ingredients for the event.
He said the venues were fully booked the following weekend, meaning rescheduling was too difficult. However he said the festival would go ahead in 2016.
“This would have been the 21st year the festival would have been held and I guarantee we’ll be back again next year,” he said.
“But after several nights of meetings we couldn’t come up with an alternative solution so we had to pull the curtain on the event this year.”
Mr Stubbs said many wineries will be open on the weekend of October 10 and 11 and invited locals and tourists to sample local drops.
“Bendigo is a welcoming city that warmly welcomes tourists from many parts of the globe,” he said.
“Let’s put Bendigo wine on our tables.”
Bendigo Heritage After Dark will still be held on Friday October 9 from 5pm. Tickets are $35.
“If people would like to support the Bendigo winegrowers and enjoy an evening of wine tasting and food sampling with friends they can consider purchasing tickets to Bendigo Heritage After Dark,” Mr Stubbs said.
For more go to the BWA website.