The Shoalhaven Coast Winter Wine Festival has become a victim of its own success.
The 15th annual festival planned for the June long weekend has been cancelled.
One of the festival organisers and owner of the Silos Estate, Raj Ray said the popularity and growth of the event, along with meeting requirements from the various stakeholders involved, had proven a huge challenge.
“The event has gone from 120 people 15 years ago, to more than 10,000 last year,” he said.
“The level of compliance and regulation for an event that size is huge.
“We have been working hard to meet all the requirements from the likes of NSW Police, Roads and Maritime Services, Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing [OLGR], Shoalhaven City Council as well as wineries themselves for the past six months.
“We all want a safe, enjoyable and happy event.
“Last year’s growth took everyone by surprise. Numbers were up by 20 per cent on the previous year.
“The festival has virtually grown by 20 per cent year on year. That’s fine when it is a small event.
“The bigger the event gets the more layers of regulations there are.
“It was not just the regulations of the various authorities involved but also the criteria the wineries put on themselves as well.
“Unfortunately, we have simply run out of time to ensure we have a safe and enjoyable event.”
One of the moves organisers tried to cap the number of people attending this year’s event was the announcement a few weeks ago the festival would be a ticketed.
Mr Ray said the decision to cancel this year's festival was not an easy one to make.
“It’s hugely disappointing,” he said “the event has grown to be one of the highlights of the winter season in the Shoalhaven.
“It was not a decision we took lightly.
“It is a terrific event for the region and has gained a great reputation. I think council and other bodies also recognise how significant the event is.
“We remain positive about the event’s future and we are all working together to make great events like this happen in future.
“So stay tuned.”
He said organising the festival and then for the owners of each individual winery to ensure they were prepared for the event was a huge undertaking.
“Lots of the wineries are small mum and dad run businesses. Catering for the festival is a huge logistics exercise. Some wineries have to have 30 to 40 staff to work on the days and there are things like first aid requirements, traffic management etc - it’s quite a complex operation.
“We have had lots of offers of help and we will be taking those up.”
Despite the disappointment this year’s festival would not go ahead, Mr Ray said the wineries would still be open across the June long weekend.