While the weather tried to cruel proceedings, the opening night of the Bathurst Winter Festival showed rain could prove no dampener in launching the annual event in style.
Market stalls were littered throughout Kings Parade, people trickled in to ride the Ferris wheel, carousel and giant slide and and excited crowds slid into fluro orange skates to take to the ice rink at the foot of the Bathurst Court House.
Once the lights were officially switched on at 6pm, the Bathurst Winter Festival truly came alive, and for the first time since 2019, visitors were able to enjoy the festival free of any COVID-19 restrictions, happy to brave the ordinary conditions to do so.
Bathurst mayor Robert Taylor said it was great to see everyone out and about despite a strong need to stay well protected from the elements.
"With this being our first Winter Festival after two COVID-wrought years, we can't wait to see two weeks, and three weekends worth of fun and entertainment for the entire family, as well as visitors to our region," Cr Taylor said.
"This event brings $1.6 million into the local economy and $1 million across household economies, accounting for 16 permanent jobs."
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Cr Taylor said around 3500 people had already purchased tickets to have a go on the ice rink, and is hopeful to break the 5000 mark.
This year has also seen the return of the Bathurst Court House as the centrepiece of the illuminations, after it couldn't be utilized in 2021 due to restorative works.
"It's great to have the Court House illuminated this year after it was missed in 2021," Cr Taylor said.
"There's a whole host of historic buildings involved with the illuminations this year, and from sundown until 10pm, visitors will be able to wander through the CBD to view these fantastic installations."
Deputy Premier and Bathurst MP Paul Toole said the festival provides an ideal attraction for residents and visitors during the July school holidays.
"The state government has backed the festival each year because we see the value it brings to the community, but also the region," Mr Toole said.
"Not only does it drive the local economy, but it brings visitors from right across the region, and with local musicians playing, replete opportunities to taste local food and beverages and view local building in a new light, this event is truly Bathurst's very own 'Vivid'."
The Bathurst Winter Festival runs until Sunday, July 17. For more information, visit www.bathurstwinterfestival.com.au.
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