THE inaugural Gigs and Digs Festival has divided the region.
Mayor Kerry Hayes said while exact numbers were yet to be finalised, an early count showed about 140 children under 12, 250 adults and 80 volunteers were at the festival.
"By all reports patrons enjoyed an absolutely spectacular, professionally run night,” he said.
Speculation has been rife on social media about why the much-loved free Multicultural Festival was replaced. The cost of Gigs and Digs events was cited as a major problem, with tickets for children over 12 costing $45 and adults $55.
Cr Hayes explained market research was conducted to determine a fair price point and said costs were kept "as low as economically possible”.
However it was still a concern for the community.
Local mother of four Sarah Clemow and her husband Brentton have many fond memories of the Multicultural Festival. The couple have taken their children to the event every year since 2014.
Mrs Clemow said the combination of increased price and the change of event were the reasons she didn't attend Gigs and Digs.
"We loved the kids seeing all the different cultural outfits and listening to the music,” she said.
"It was a fantastic family event.
"Gigs and Digs was too expensive for a family of six.
"It would have cost over $90 for my husband and I, and that didn't included food, it would end up costing a fortune.”
Mrs Clemow said she would go to the event next year if there was a lower gate charge and the structure was changed so it incorporated a little of both of the festivals.
"Everybody I've spoken to would be happy to pay $10 for adults and $5 for children over 13,” she said.
"I don't see a problem with incorporating them into one festival, it would still be a fantastic way for local performers to get their name out there.”
Cr Hayes responded to community concerns, explaining the change from the Multicultural Festival, which began in 2005, was due to a number of factors.
"Many of the components of the Multicultural Festival are run as separate events or fundraisers by local community organisations, such as the popular Eat Street Markets, Emerald State High School's annual beer festival and other singular, culture-specific food events,” he said.
However with a six-figure price tag, it was the drop-out of a major sponsor that affected the event.
"The event was partially funded through major sponsors and grants from the State Government, with council and the CHDC footing the remainder of the bill,” Cr Hayes said.
"In 2016, after 13 years, funding agreements with the Multicultural Festival's major sponsorship partners ended and were not renewed by these parties. It was therefore decided to discontinue the Multicultural Festival.
"I would like to make it clear that this event was not the Multicultural Festival but an entirely new experience in entertainment and tourism for the Central Highlands.”
Cr Hayes said those that attended the festival were praising the new event.
"We have received some great feedback from event-goers and the performers and we certainly intend to continue the Gigs and Digs Festival next year in the same music festival format,” he said.
Operational costs of the event not covered by ticket sales will be absorbed by CHDC and the council.
Positive reviews from performers
LOCAL performers were among those to praise the inaugural Gigs and Digs Festival aimed at bringing headline artists to the town and providing a platform for local artists.
Anna Farquhar took to the stage on the weekend and said the event was "truly a night for everyone no matter what age”.
"It was a fantastic opportunity for local artists like myself, Tameaka Powell and Angus Dunbar, as well as my students the AFM Buskers who are only 13 and 14 years old,” she said.
"They have never experienced something like that, performing live for a big audience, and for them to be able to rub shoulders with the big guns was just great for them. They're still talking about it now.
"They were able to get some really good advice from the performers, like Mick Lindsay and the Koi Boys.”
Anna said it was a "great motivator” for the performers.
"It shows me what else I can do and what I'm capable of,” she said.
"I gig every weekend at pubs, weddings and different things but I don't often get to play my own music. It was so good to be able to play my own stuff and I'm so grateful Gigs and Digs allowed me to do that.”
"Emerald doesn't get stuff like this and it's such a big thing to organise. I would definitely love to be involved again next year.”