NEWS | Kaley Payne
Friday 15 May 2015
After 17 years, Easterfest organisers have announced today it will no longer run.
“Easterfest was a celebration at easter, about easter, and we can only give glory to God for what has unfolded at this festival,” said conference organisers today. “It has been a privilege to gather with thousands of people to celebrate and remember the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Easterfest, a music festival run across the Easter long weekend in Toowoomba each year, attracted over 15,000 at its peak in 2010/2011 but event director Dave Schenk says those numbers were steadily declining year by year since then. At last month’s festival there were between 9-10,000 visitors across the weekend. It seems like a lot, by Mr Schenk says it just wasn’t enough.
He cited continued adverse weather conditions across the Easter weekend for several years and also a general decline in music festival ticket sales around Australia as contributors to poor sales figures for Easterfest. “It’s not just about the rain, or the artist line-up,” Mr Schenk told Eternity. “There’s a fundamental shift in culture away from these sorts of events.”
“New Empire, for example, were really strong in the old school Christian camp – playing youth groups and Youth Alive – have toured with Good Charlotte and had a really strong presence outside the Christian scene as well. I think that’s a great thing. The more Christians who can be really great at what they do, and be a light in the darkness, the better. And if that means they’re playing Splendour in the Grass or Bluesfest or Falls Festival or something instead of Easterfest, then I think that’s awesome,” he said.
But the absence of Easterfest on the Christian music scene in Australia will certainly leave a hole in the industry here.
“Easterfest has been a place where bands have been discovered – bands like Alabaster Box or Soul Flame back in the day, or even the journey that New Empire has taken over hte years through Easterfest, I think it definitely will be missed.”
So too will it leave a gap in the Queensland events schedule and Toowoomba’s tourist scene. Easterfest was listed as one of Queensland’s major annual events recently, and the Brisbane Times has reported that it feeds over $12 million into the Toowoomba local economy every year, as thousands descend upon the northern town.
“We love Toowoomba, and we want to thank the community for letting us hold such a significant event in the centre of such a beautiful city,” said Mr Schenk. “We hope the financial and social benefits of Easterfest will continue into the future.”
But for the close to 10,000 people who still made the journey to Toowoomba each year, the big question is: what now? Mr Schenk hopes that something else newer and fresher will “pop up in the empty space” left by Easterfest.
Parachute Festival, a Christian music festival in New Zealand and also the country’s longest-running music festival (24 years), wrapped up in 2014 saying it was no longer financially viable. But Mr Schenk says, in its absence this year two smaller festivals – Cloud Festival and Festival One – that were new and able to fill the void.
“That’s the key, I think. It’s hard to go backwards. But if you’re able to start something new and figure out what it was that people most loved about [Easterfest] and move forward with something new without the baggage of something that’s grown huge and has started to decline, then I hope somewhere int he future something pops up in that space.”
“It’s going to take people with anew fresh vision for what it could look like, and people to do the hard yards – the hard, pioneering work done by guys like Isaac Moody 17 years ago that led to Easterfest. I hope that that happens because it’s been an amazing experience, and there’s a space there that’s worth filling. But it’s clear that Easterfest isn’t the right thing to fill it anymore.”