One of Ballarat's oldest and biggest events could be the curtain raiser for a post Covid-19 return to normal for the city with tentative booking dates confirmed for the 2020 Royal South Street Society eisteddfod.
It is hoped that with an easing of restrictions in coming weeks, the 129-year-old arts and performance festival will be able to kick off in some form beginning in late July.
And if it does return, it could be the boost the city's accommodation, restaurants and business industry has been praying for these past three months.
One accommodation provider yesterday described Royal South Street as the city's "most valuable event".
"It brings in money and people, mums and dads, sisters and brothers, grandparents and they all stay from one to three nights," Tim Canny from Sovereign Park Motor Inn said.
"The calisthenics period is our strongest month. It's a great event for Ballarat and we'd be delighted if it does get confirmed as it is happening."
Dates planned for this year's festival start with a performance night at the Ballarat Art Gallery on Sunday July 19 with 'Celebrating Chopin'.
The popular 'Speech and Drama' category has been penciled in for the Diocesan Centre from Wednesday August 5 to Friday August 7 and Monday August 10 to Wednesday August 12.
Calisthenics is scheduled to run from October 5-31.
READ MORE: Calisthenics marching the beat of its own drum.
However two casualties will be Arts For All event designed for children with special needs and the Victorian Bands Competition which has been rescheduled to date to be determined in 2021.
Royal South Street business manager Tony Rowlands said it was with regret that some program initiatives had been cancelled this year.
"Bands are simply not able to get together to be able to rehearse," Mr Rowlands, himself a band member who competed last year said.
"We're very disappointed that we couldn't run the programs for children, particularly those from the specialist school, which is a fairly recent initiative."
The Aria heats are scheduled to be held at Her Majesty's Theatre on September 11 and 12, where it is hoped an audience may be able to attend.
Expectations are that gatherings of up to 100 people at a time will be possible by the middle of July, but whether crowds are able to attend will be up to the state government regulations.
The biggest event in terms of numbers will be The Australian Calisthenics competition which is scheduled to run from October 5 and 31 at Her Majesty's Theatre.
Mr Rowlands said organisers at this stage were pushing ahead with plans, fully aware that things could change very quickly.
"Until we have final details from the government on venues, we're a bit hamstrung," Mr Rowlands said.
"We're still pushing ahead but at the same time, we're still investigating all our options.
"There is potential to hold events without an audience, there's also potential for us to investigate video submissions. We're exploring a whole heap of options."
HOLDING OUT HOPE FOR A RETURN
ACCOMMODATION providers are keeping their fingers crossed at the possibility of a return of the Royal South Street eisteddfod in a hope that it might be the kickstart the Ballarat economy sorely needs after COVID-19.
Royal South Street has released a tentative schedule which - while subject to change of government regulations at a days notice - gives the first glimmer of hope for a return to some normality.
READ MORE: Calisthenics brings beauty and business
RSS hopes at this stage to launch the performance spectacular in Ballarat on July 19, with the Australian Calisthenics competition slated to start on October 5.
The state government plans to lift some restrictions on bars and restaurants from June 1, allowing for up to 20 customers at a time. From June 22, it is hoped that can be increased to 50 and up to 100 by mid July.
It is also hoped that the lifting of restrictions by mid-July will also include opportunities for a return to overnight and short term stays at hotels and motels which would provide an economic boon for the city should Royal South Street go ahead as planned.
Tim Canny from Sovereign Park Motor Inn said the Royal South Street competition was the "biggest and most economically valuable" event in Ballarat, particularly to accommodation businesses.
"It's our most valuable event and personally I don't think it gets the recognition it deserves," Mr Canny said.
"It brings in money and people, mums and dads, sisters and brothers, grandparents and they all stay from one to three nights
"The calisthenics period is our strongest month. It's a great event for Ballarat and we'd be delighted if it does get confirmed as it is happening, it would be great for the industry."
Many accommodation businesses are hanging on by a thread, with the federal government's Job Keeper program the support that was desperately needed.
Iain Gunn from The Mercure said the Job Keeper program had kept many staff employed.
"Without the federal government, we would have only got through on a skeleton staff, but we wouldn't have been able to bring back those that we were able to," he said.
"We would have lost 30-40 staff across a range of businesses if it were not for Job Keeper."
Mr Gunn said the knock-on effect of having Royal South Street return would be great for all business.
"Who knows how business will come back although the relaxation to cafes and restaurants will be good," he said.
"The next step is being able to stay overnight will free up the accommodation industry.
"We still have people coming to work and essential services, but the Friday-Sunday people aren't allowed to travel for leisure.
"We all want attractions open, but at what point is it viable? And at what point is it uneconomic, that's up to individuals.".
Gavin James from Lake Wendouree Luxury Apartments said a lack of events had decimated the tourism industry and any return of Royal South Street would be welcome.
"Ballarat is fantastic in terms of its ability to have events on throughout the year," he said.
"It's one we all wait for to fill our rooms and help with accommodation levels. It is a significant contributor to cafes, restaurants, taxis. It's everything its the whole industry.
"The critical factor will be the gatherings and number of people. Gatherings of 10-20 people will make things difficult, hopefully they can be relaxed further."
For a full list of events head to royalsouthstreet.com.au
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