Happy Wanderer Festival is so much more than a festival you can simply get down and have a groove at. The brainchild of directors Mark Foletta and Bodin Campbell, Happy Wanderer is a festival which places a particular focus on sustainability and does so in more ways than one.
The largest focus the festival places on sustainability is perhaps from an environmental standpoint, with both men strong advocators of environmental health in their daily lives.
“For us, it’s really having this thing where we’re bringing all these people and together and we essentially challenge ourselves. We say, let’s draw on the best knowledge we have available to us and let’s talk about minimal impact, or no trace,” explains Campbell, “And let’s talk about really practical things like composting and the best way to plant different plants in your garden, or the best way to rehabilitate a worn-out piece of farm.”
“On the farming side of things, sustainability is definitely a big focus of mine,” continues Foletta.
Foletta is a sustainable farmer, winemarker and forager, and is also the owner of the land in which Happy Wanderer Festival takes place each year. Based in Benalla, Victoria, the land was previously the Foletta family farm.
“When I moved back to the farm, I really started to focus on trying to make the farm as sustainable as possible … because if your farming practices aren’t sustainable, there’s no future in it,” says Foletta.
The property is no stranger to a festival, with Foletta’s father having run what was called the Yin Barun Beer and Wine Festival for some years during the ‘70s. “It was always a bit of a pipedream [to get the festival up and going again],” explains Foletta.
“I showed Bo [Bodin Campbell] the farm and told him the story and he said ‘why not? Let’s do it’. It started with a few working bees and we’d invite people up with the promise of wine and a roasted dinner and put a few bands on. One weekend we had 18 people and the next we had 80 people and we thought, we could really escalate this.”
And so, with the help and support of a tight-knit network of friends and family, Happy Wanderer was born.
Following on from environmental sustainability, the pair also stress the importance of other sustainable lifestyle practices for individuals living in remote, regional areas.
“Being a farmer is pretty isolating, so the festival provides this amazing opportunity to network and socialize,” says Foletta, “A large chunk of the pre-sale tickets were bought by young people who live in the area, so that was really encouraging.”
A family-friendly event, the festival boasts a relaxed, happy-go-lucky vibe. Featuring a line-up of outstanding up-and-comers, as well as established artists of all different genres, a variety of musical tastes are sure to be catered to.
In addition to an impressive line-up of musicians, attendees might enjoy a visit to the Chai Tent, getting their feet wet during The Duck Race (yes, you read correctly!), or even partaking in one of several workshops on offer.
“The Chai Tent is just an example of the way the festival runs more broadly,” explains Campbell, “It’s low-key, it’s family friendly, nothing is expensive. The whole point is that it’s accessible for good people. We want to have a really safe, nourishing environment, where people can totally get down and boogie, but they can totally just find a couch and take it easy too.”
The duck race in question takes place in a shallow river that runs through the property. “The guys were pretty skeptical [of the idea to have a duck race], but low and behold the first year it was an absolute hit, 26 ducks – they’re rubber ducks by the way – got released on the river and there were people jumping up and down splashing … it was absolute mayhem, but it was amazing and everyone really got behind it,” says Foletta.
Taking place over Melbourne Cup weekend, the rubber ducky race will be the race that stops the nation – or, at least Happy Wanderer Festival attendees.
And if you weren’t impressed enough by this festival already, it also places a particular focus on the gender balance. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but I believe there might actually be more female artists than male artists [this year],” says Foletta.
“Even in the past we’ve had at times act after act, with really powerful front women and we didn’t even consciously plan that. The gender balance is very important and it’s a nice thing that we’re able to celebrate.”
For further information, the full festival line-up and to purchase tickets, please visit the website.
When & Where: Yin Barun Farm, Benalla, Victoria – November 3 – 5
Written by Helena Metzke
Images by Brendan Tonkin