In a throwback to pre-COVID times, there were lines through the North Gardens as people waited patiently to get into the SummerSalt music festival on Sunday.
With the grounds expanded and split down the middle, the 7000 punters had to bring their own chairs in, and were spaced out in pods through the grounds, with walkways in between.
It led to a relaxed, picnic-style atmosphere for the sold-out crowd, who got to enjoy Australian legends like The Cat Empire, John Butler, and the Teskey Brothers, as well as Boy and Bear, Montaigne, and Nat Vazer.
It's one of the first big events in Ballarat as the coronavirus recovery continues, following last weekend's Ballarat Beer Festival and Funk'n'Fest, and potentially a view of things to come as other major events look to return.
Marshals wandered the crowd with pool noodles, perhaps an icebreaker to encourage social distancing between groups in the pods, and the spaces for lines to the bar or toilets seemed wider than normal - apart from that, it was a standard summer festival experience, right down to the price of beers.
While people weren't able to rush to the front of the stage to dance, they were still allowed to stand up and dance in front of their chairs - and there were still the big singalongs, including to Boy and Bear's immortal cover of Crowded House's 'Fall At Your Feet'.
"It's so amazing to be on stage playing in front of real people," frontman Dave Hosking told the crowd.
The Ballarat show was officially approved on Friday afternoon, complying with the DHHS COVID-safe plan.
The previous weekend, two sold-out shows were able to go ahead at Mornington.
The tour will move on to Tasmania in March.
Ballarat promoter Duane McDonald, taking a breather between a thousand other jobs at about the halfway mark, said the festival was running well.
"Everything's perfect," he said.
"There's two zones, 3500 in each zone, and a there's a bit of cloud coming over that'll help us."
One punter, Declan Leishman, said he was keen to avoid getting sunburnt in the afternoon - he added he was glad the seating arrangements were more flexible.
"It's not in straight lines, everyone can sit around and talk to each other," he said.
"It's been done really well."
The event was also a boost for Ballarat's beleaguered visitor economy, after Victoria's five-day" circuit breaker lockdown - while there were plenty of people from Ballarat, there was a strong contingent of out-of-towners.
Andrew and Kirstie, from Geelong, were staying overnight in Ballarat.
"It seems pretty well organised, there's lots of space," Andrew said. "It's just great so far."
Rebecca Knaggs said it was "emotional" to be at the festival after so long without live music.
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"I'm feeling the gravity of COVID, you just can't take these things for granted," she said.
"This is the first experience we've had where we're all free, I haven't been around this many people in a year
"There's lots of different feelings - there's gratitude, we're going to make the most of this."
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