A ONE-OFF festival will aim to help Heathcote's economy and businesses recover while giving residents a reason to smile.
The Heathcote Community Festival will combined a bush market, night market and live music into one major event for the town. It will take place on March 6 and 7 and
Heathcote Tourism and Development president Peter Maine said the event grew out of a desire to give residents a positive experience and help the town's economy.
"Firstly, we wanted to provide a bit of an escape from the horrible year of lockdowns and the rest of it," he said. "To give people an opportunity to get out and about with some semblance of normality.
"But we also wanted provide an opportunity to kickstart some economic acts in the town and region, which been wildly erratic over last 12 months with the Melbourne shutdowns."
Mr Maine said Heathcote's location as a stopping point between Melbourne and the Murray River region meant the town relied on passing trade.
"The physical existence of Heathcote as a natural stopping point between Hey Deniliquin, Echuca and Melbourne is significant part of the economic driver for town and region," he said.
"So to start shutting borders in NSW and putting rings of steel in Melbourne, the streets of Heathcote were left to the mercy of its 2800 residents.
"That doesn't add up from an economic point of view for the businesses that were operating. So it was important to maintain the flow."
The festival will include live music, market stalls, food trucks and wine tasting. Headlining the entertainment is Australia's Got Talent alumni and Masked Singer winner Bonnie Anderson.
"The bush market runs during the day on Saturday and morphs into a night market," Mr Maine said. "We have added into that food vans, wineries doing tastings and about three hours of live music.
"It's a one-off event and not something that is going to happen every year. Bendigo Community Bank here is one of the instigators (of the) process. They wanted to do it for the community and provided grant monies."
Since Victorian returned to a COVID-normal life, Mr Maine said there had been a lot of visitors to Heathcote.
"We have seen a significant increase in the normal traffic flow through town," he said. "Normally it is about 6500 cars a day, so it was a no brainer to stimulate activities to do when people were champing at the bit to get out.
"We have worked closely with the City of Greater Bendigo and their comprehensive COVID-safe planning process that is adjunct to the Victorian health department regulations. There was some difficult stuff to do but nothing that was draconian and nothing that would stop us from holding the event."
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