Major event on hold, vows to come back ‘bigger and better’
ONE of Ballina's biggest and longest-standing festivals has been cancelled due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
But Ballina's Food and Wine Festival's head organiser Col Lee reveals next year's festival is set to be bigger and better with a new manager set to take the reigns.
It's been running for 10 years and brings thousands into the shire each year, but due to COVID-19 and sponsors forced to close there doors, Mr Lee said organisers were forced to make the "disappointing" decision to pull the plug on the event scheduled for October.
The festival is among countless other events and community groups have been impacted by new rules restricting gatherings.
"It's all come to a halt because of the coronavirus and when the government brought in the restrictions, it stopped organising in its tracks," Mr Lee said.
"Then major sponsors began closing down and we realised we couldn't deliver the quality that we wanted to run.
"We are in the mix with other organisations having to cope with the cancellations of events. "It's very disappointing but unfortunately we have to live within the restrictions that are there, it's a shame, but most people in Ballina understand."
Mr Lee said festival preparations would take at least 6 months and relied heavily on volunteers and sponsorship to be successful.
"Most of the hotel and supplier sponsors are naturally closed and don't have that cash flow, so sponsorship would be impossible to run at the levels of expertise that we like to run it at," he said.
He revealed organisers had been thinking of taking the festival "to another level" by seeking an new administrator for about the last year.
"Another party is interested in taking over the administration for the festival, and it would have happened by now if it wasn't for coronavirus," he said.
"They are very keen.
"Our Rotary Club, Ballina on Richmond will still be involved, but it will be good to get some new blood there."
He said it will come back bigger and better if all plans go ahead.
"The sponsorship is a concern, but if those sponsors can still stay on board then everything should run smoothly," he said.
"Once the restrictions are lifted, we will start working with these parties and go from there."