At last The Kingdom of Ironfest will reopen its doors at Lithgow Showground in 2023.
Ironfest will return on April 21, 22 and 23 next year, finally getting to have its 'Gothic' theme on display.
It's been dark days for festival, first falling victim to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with festival-goers celebrating online, followed by lockdown in 2021 and too much of a financial risk to go ahead in 2022.
Ironfest organiser Macgregor Ross said it was mixed emotions of stress and excitement to be returning after three years of devastation.
"We announced an event for our usual slot next year and it's pretty exciting in many ways, it's also very daunting in another way in that the new COVID world has made it very difficult to put on Ironfest as we have done it in the past," he said.
He said the financial pressures were overpowering in many ways with Ironfest often spending close to $200,000 before the actual event itself.
"In the past we used to have some money in the bank, quite considerable to spend throughout the year in the lead up to Christmas for insurance, traffic hire company, wages for organisers - all that sort of stuff and that would keep us covered until December," he said.
"Until we'd get money coming in from stalls to keep planning ahead and then come February we'd start selling tickets and stall spaces, so we'd be able to use that money as well but COVID put a spanner in the works," he said.
"We couldn't spend the stalls and ticket money because if people wanted it back we had to give it."
"Refunding tickets and stalls was a complete nightmare."
Mr Ross said the committee was burnt out, at one point being forced to return a $70,000 grant when the event was cancelled.
"In February 2020 we received a considerable grant but when we cancelled we had to give that money back. COVID really put us in a difficult position, at the moment we have zero dollars in the account," he said.
Looking forward Mr Ross said he doesn't know how things will play out and he was doing his best to get everything back on track.
"Large festivals are like large ships, they move forward and have huge momentum and once that momentum stalls it's really difficult to get it going again," he said.
"But basically I'm hopeful we can do what we've normally done in the past," he said.
Mr Ross said the reception since the announcement had been encouraging and made him feel "a bit more optimistic for Ironfest 2023".
"It was really encouraging, people really love it [Ironfest]. If it wasn't for that I'd be going 'oh dear' but I had so many people messaging me privately and saying it was the best news they'd heard all year and thanking me, so that was nice and I'm still sort of in that glow," he said.
Since its inception, Mr Ross said Ironfest has attracted 207,000 people to the Lithgow area and contributed over $40 million to the local economy.
"It does create jobs, it boosts tourism and the economy, Ironfest has a domino effect," he said.
"It's done quite a lot for the image of Lithgow."
Mr Ross also did a presentation to Lithgow Council who agreed to support and work with Ironfest and help find solutions for an event that brings so much tourism to the area.
"I was quite pleased with the outcome," he said.
Lithgow City Council mayor Maree Statham said she was delighted to hear about the return of Ironfest.
"We've certainly all missed it as we have other different events that we've had on in the last couple of years," she said.
"With COVID pushed aside a little bit, we are now able to have some tourist attractions back in our city which I encourage and support.
"Hopefully everyone will be encouraged to go out and participate and attend Ironfest, LithGlow and hopefully Halloween this year," she said.
"Ironfest is one of the favourite events of the year and enables people to dress up if they wish or just go along and support the tourism it brings to Lithgow," mayor Statham said.
Tickets will be available at the gate and via Ticketbooth - prices as per 2020 - availability to be announced. Tickets and stalls purchased for 2020 and not refunded are valid.
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