Rug Up Winter Festival draws massive crowds in second year

Sam and Maddie Werne enjoying the cubby house at the Rug Up Festival.
Sam and Maddie Werne enjoying the cubby house at the Rug Up Festival.

IT MIGHT be only in its second year, but Ballarat's Rug Up Winter Festival is already exceedingly popular.

Fittingly, the 2015 edition opened on a chilly nine-degree Saturday, and young families flocked to the Mining Exchange in their hundreds. 

Developed by Leadership Ballarat and Western Region, the festival presents a welcome opportunity for parents and children to explore a range of arts and crafts across the weekend.

More than 450 people entered the Mining Exchange before 12pm on Saturday, a figure Leadership Ballarat and Western Region chief executive Sofia Fiusco said was a “fantastic return” for the first few hours.

“Overall we had 1900 for the two days (last year) and we’re hoping to up that,” Ms Fiusco said.

“We think by having lots of activities people will come back over the two days.

“The thing that we did differently this year was include a whole lot more free activities for children as well as a paid comedy show.

“Bringing in the creative team through Ballarat artists has really opened up the potential of what we can do.”

“We’re really fortunate in Ballarat that we have so many artists that can cater for all ages.”

A post on the Rug Up Ballarat Facebook page said that 1273 people had walked through the Mining Exchange doors at the end of day one.

The festival is also aimed at raising money for UnitingCare’s Breezeway program, with a gold coin donation required at the doors.

A drop off point for used clothes and blankets is also available to help the homeless during Ballarat’s harsh winter months.

Ms Viusco said last year’s festival provided Breezeway with 500 meals for the homeless, equating to about $2500.

“Hopefully we’ll raise that again. That will be our aim,” she said.

“The clothes is really the big one. Blankets and clothes are the big items that people are bringing in.”

Local artists and producers have also used the festival to show off their products in the Mining Exchange market stalls.

Alongside the stalls, an indoor sculpture garden, children's play spaces and live comedy performances and children’s music form part of this year's program.

“MADE (The Museum of Australian Democracy) is also here,” Ms Fiusco said.

“People don’t always realise as a Ballarat resident you can go to MADE for free.”

Ms Fiusco said books can also be donated for an imagination library.

More than $1300 was raised for Breezeway program in day one, meaning an addition that means an additional 265 food packs.