Heat sours Taste festival

AFTER three years of great success at Naracoorte's Taste the Limestone Coast Festival, crowd numbers took a dive in 2014.

Just over 1000 people walked through the gates - compared to almost 1800 in 2013 - mainly due to temperatures reaching a high of 43.7 degrees.

Event chair Derek Blackwell said the weather was the key factor behind the lack of support at Saturday's festival, which was organised by Naracoorte Lions Club.

"I don't have the final figures yet but it clearly will have a marked effect on the amount we will be able to pay to the Naracoorte and District Men's Shed," he said.

"We are still very much hoping to make a good donation. It's just one of those things you have to take in your stride. 

"That's summer in Australia for you. We just have to take this one for experience, see what we can learn from it."

Organisers tried their hardest to ensure patrons were as comfortable as possible in the extreme heat.

They set up fans with water misters at a number of locations, extra marquees to provide plenty of shade, an enormous amount of ice was on hand, there were water coolers or fountains on every wine stall and sunscreen available at the first aid tent.

Many stalls also handed out promotional hats to protect people from the harsh UV rays.

"Basically we did everything we could," Mr Blackwell said. "We tried to provide a pleasant environment on what was otherwise an unpleasant day.

"It appeared to us that all people who made an effort to come had a very good day. The quality of entertainment was first class and all the musical acts received a great response."

In 2011, 2012 and 2013 the festival was blessed with mild weather in the mid-20s and crowd figures reflected that.

However, there have been incidents of 40-plus degrees in the past which have had a huge impact on the event financially.

"Luckily nowadays we have got good sponsorship, Friends of the Festival and strong support from the community which all helps," Mr Blackwell said.

"It was a real tribute to those who worked (in the heat). There was an incredible effort put in. We had a couple of heat exhaustion problems...but the effort was just fantastic."

Stall holders struggled with sales, particularly those offering hot foods, but still saw the event as a worthwhile experience. Two Fat Blokes wood fired pizza stall was one of six to have a joint booking with the MiniJumbuk Naracoorte Cup the following day, and also opened at the open air movie night on Friday.

Owners Denise Dunn and Michael Salt said this was their first time in Naracoorte after taking over the Adelaide-based business in August last year.

"Despite the extreme heat the atmosphere was great," Ms Dunn said.

"I wouldn't say we made a loss. Because we had all three (events over the weekend) it covered it well for sure.

"I think there was a really good variety of foods, there didn't appear to be any double ups.

"Lions club were amazing. They had it so tight, they knew exactly what they were doing."

When the Herald asked if they would attend next year's Taste festival, Ms Dunn said it would depend on the weather.

"For us 40 degrees is too hot to be in front of the oven so when it's 43 degrees it's even worse," she said.

"I think occupational health and safety wise for us, we would have to consider the weather. Maybe if it is above 40 we would have to think twice about coming again."

Fortunately temperatures dropped into the 30s by about 3pm which was a noticeably welcome change.

"I felt that once the cool change hit people started coming out out and lightening up," Ms Dunn said. "Even with the musicians I felt a remarkably heightened energy."

Padthaway's Farmer's Leap Wines owner/director Cheryl Merrett agreed numbers were not as good as they could have been.

"There was a lot of good feedback from customers but it was just a shame that it was so hot," she said.

"Numbers were down, although it was our first year (at Taste Festival) so we don't really have a comparison.

"We probably made a financial loss but we are also there to capture people for email and future sales so we can't really say it was a loss overall.

"I want to thank the people that did come out and brave the heat with us to make it a good day."

The Naracoorte Lions took over the rights to Taste the Limestone Coast Festival four years ago and are planning to keep going with it for the foreseeable future.

It is not locked in with a contract but has an agreement with the Naracoorte Lucindale Business and Tourism Association to continue running it.

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