Ironfest: 10 things you may not know

1: It was named for iron, but its roots are in steel. 

The first Ironfest was held in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the birth of steel in Lithgow. Founder Macgregor Ross, an artist in found objects, was planning an event and took the opportunity to tie his vision for an event to Lithgow’s steel-working history. The first event, in 2000, was organised by Macgregor Ross and co-founder Alison Lynes. 

2: The first Ironfest included 27 people (presenters, organisers etc) and was held on Main Street, Lithgow.

Now based at the Tony Luchetti Showground, Ironfest was initially based in a few empty shopfronts in the Main Street. 

3: The first Ironfest crowd was 400 people. 

“I was thrilled,” organiser Macgregor Ross said. In 2016 the event pulled in 16,000 visitors across the weekend. Ticket sales indicate 2017 will be even bigger. 

3: The Wandering Minstrels performed at the very first Ironfest. 

Appearing every year, Glenda Phipps and her crew have delighted with their music for 17 years.  

4: The spiritual home of Ironfest is Blast Furnace Park. 

In early years, some of Ironfest’s events were held at Blast Furnace Park. The recent announcement of renovations for the site signals the possibility that this picturesque venue can once again be incorporated into the celebrations into the future.

5: Ironfest has been held at other venues. 

Other venues for the Ironfest celebrations have included the State Mine Museum, the Small Arms Factory Museum, the Talisman Gallery and Blast Furnace Park. 

Concerns about the rising numbers of people attending (and the question of where they would all park) led to the permanent relocation of Ironfest to the Lithgow Tony Luchetti showground in 2004.

6: Blacksmiths appeared at the very first Ironfest and have formed an integral part of the festival. 

The very first blacksmith to take part in the festival was Harry Piers. A well known character distinguished by his favourite headgear, a top hat, Harry has made a return visit to Ironfest. 

"We didn’t know he was coming, he just turned up and we made room for him," Mr Ross said. “He’s a mad character and a great guy.”

7: Ticket sales have been growing. 

Ticket sales surged 20 per cent last year with a similar increase this year. This may make life interesting for organisers into the future, with the Lithgow showground unlikely to be able to take a crowd much greater than 20,000. 

8: The different groups present at Ironfest are called ‘Clans’. 

Steampunk, machines,  20th Century, blacksmiths, Victorians, sci-fi – there are many clans that make up the Ironfest family. And the clans are interconnected in mind-bending ways. Ironfest prides itself on being inclusive, rather than exclusive, so expect to see Wonder Woman, Boudica and Daenerys Targaryen all on one day. 

9: Ironfest includes weapons, machinery and animals. 

A cavalry charge can be going on one minute, a heavy armour vehicle display the next. Could this be a more deadly combination than children and animals? Apparently not. Mr Ross assures us that Ironfest has an impressive safety record. 

10: The line-up changes.

For the first year, Ironfest 2017 will include a Guild Hall. Last year, the pro wrestling was part of the scene, but they are taking a well earned break. The 19th Century historical group is back after taking a break for Waterloo bicentennial celebrations in 2015. 

Ironfest is hosted at the Tony Luchetti showgrounds, Lithgow, on Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23. Tickets are available online or at the gate.