THE Grampians Jazz Festival will relocate from Halls Gap to Port Fairy.
But festival organisers are confident the region will not suffer from the decision.
Musicians who have made the annual pilgrimage to Halls Gap each February will move the event to the south-west Victorian coastal town from 2017.
Volunteer Doug McDonald said festival organisers had no intention to relocate the event.
However he said musicians – many of whom had relocated to the coast – had decided to play in Port Fairy from 2017, rather than travel to Halls Gap.
He said organisers hoped to host a jazz festival in the Grampians towards the middle of the year.
“While it is disappointing to lose the festival in February, it was one of those things that the musicians felt was necessary,” he said.
“It was just felt there was too much risk involved in hosting the festival in the Grampians in February.
“All is not lost though, as we will be looking to host a similar event later in the year.
“The weather hasn’t always been kind to us at this time of year, so we might look at some dates towards the end of May when the weather is not as much of a threat to us.
“The musicians have all indicated they will support that, as well as the Port Fairy event.”
Mr McDonald said the Port Fairy festival organising committee was well advanced with planning a February 2017 event.
He said this had led to the regular Grampians Jazz Festival acts locking in that date to perform on the coast. The festival was one of Halls Gap’s biggest annual events.
Grampians Chalets owner and Halls Gap Tourism committee member Geoff Watts said he was bitterly disappointed with the decision.
He said the announcement came as a complete shock, and he was angry the move was not discussed with the Halls Gap community.
“I’m in shock that a decision like this could be made without any consultation at all,” he said.
“Halls Gap Tourism, Grampians Tourism and the Northern Grampians Shire Council had no idea this was happening. The committee has just gone ahead and made the decision to do this.”
Mr Watts said the jazz festival attracted 5000 people for three nights to Halls Gap. He said the effect for businesses of losing such an event would be enormous.
“To be taken away in such secrecy is really bad,” he said. “It affects everything really, not only in Halls Gap, but surrounding towns like Stawell and Ararat. We have been here six years and our accommodation is always full. On top of that, there is the loss of catering to the cricket club, the Halls Gap Sports Club will be affected, the school, the Lions club.
“It will make a big dent in the money coming in for these groups and I’m really gutted by that. It has been a big shock to the system.”
“After the floods of 2011 and the fires of 2012, the jazz festival kicked everyone in business off again,” he said. “We have gone two years without a natural disaster and now the committee has decided to take the festival away from us. The effect of that on businesses in Halls Gap will be worse than any bushfire or flood.”