Festival fever hits town of Heyfield

Job well done: Heyfield Timber Festival organising committee members Felecia Stevenson and Aaron Ralph, flanked by Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood and Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull. photograph liam durkin


THE industry most synonymous with Heyfield was celebrated to the fullest.
After a 27-year hiatus, the Heyfield Timber Festival made a triumphant return recently,
with people flocking from across the state for two days of festivities.
Working under the slogan ‘From the hills to the mills and beyond’, the festival gave those involved in the timber industry an opportunity to come together and share their passion, all the while providing further validation that timber was indeed part of the very fabric of the country town.
Generations of the industry overlapped at the festival, with some even from families who have given decades worth of service in the mills or in the forests.
Not even those ravished by age could hide their immense pride at being a former custodian
of Heyfield timber, with one chap even decking out his motorised scooter to look like a logging truck – complete with trailer.
Respect: Crowds lined the streets to applaud those who have contributed to Heyfield’s thriving timber industry. photograph liam durkin
On Saturday, wood chop demonstrations, heritage drought horses and vintage machinery were just some of the attractions on display at the Gordon Street Reserve, before a twilight
market was held as the sun went down.
Town pride was perhaps in earnest the following day, as people lined George and Temple Streets to cheer on a parade of trucks and earth moving equipment. Truck drivers
were only too happy to toot their horns as they passed through.
Amid all the celebrations the most poignant moment for most in attendance may well have been after the parade, when festival-goers gathered at the Timber Workers Memorial to remember industry greats.
As crowds gathered around the memorial, Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood and
Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull spoke about the importance of the timber industry
to Heyfield and the flow on-effects that have benefited the town.
“The timber industry is Heyfield,” Mr Bull said.
“The percentage of people that live in this town that work in the industry is incredible.
“If you take the timber industry out of Heyfield, you close the pub, you finish the footy club and netball club, the primary schools are struggling for numbers.”
The MPs also made particular mention of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods managing director Vince Hurley and late Wellington Shire councillor Malcolm Hole, generally regarded as the unofficial mayor of Heyfield, for their advocacy in supporting the industry and serving the community.
Speech: Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood speaks at the Timber Worker Memorial. photograph liam durkin
As well as a celebration of timber, the festival also provided a nod to the classic country mentality of just getting the job done no matter the workload.
Felicia Stevenson of the Heyfield Timber Festival committee said she was rapped with how well the weekend went.
“It has been amazing, just the crowds of people we had, the support, nothing really went wrong. A small committee, but we pulled it off,” she said.
“A lot of work to be done, families getting involved to help us out where they could, I am over the moon.
“The highlight has been the families just coming out and having fun.”
Ms Stevenson said uncertainty surrounding the state governments plan to phase out native timber harvesting by 2030 provided the spark to bring the festival back to life after nearly three decades.
“The festival was to give families something to look forward to,” she said.
“That is what Heyfield is – timber. It is what is important to a lot of us around here. My
husband and sons are loggers, I work in a timber mill.
“Hopefully the timber industry goes on and people have got their jobs that are stable.”
Great show: The Heyfield Timber Festival attracted patrons from across the state. photograph liam durkin
Outing: A name synonymous with Heyfield, the Woodland family, enjoyed the festival. Pictured are Paula, Colin, Denise, Eunice (aka ‘Tiny’), Kevin, Molly (Birdsey), Jack and Sue Woodland. photograph liam durkin
Circling: Trucks were on display at the festival, encompassing the Gordon Street Reserve. photograph liam durkin
Poignant: Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull speaks at the Timber Workers Memorial as part of the Heyfield Timber Festival. photograph liam durkin
Locals: Lachlan, Renee, Jordan and Ryan Powney and Rob Woolan of Heyfield at the festival. photograph liam durkin
Timber is tops: Heyfield’s Lee Wojcinski, John and Wendy Ferguson and Chris and Maxie Blackwood from Warragul and Toongabbie attended the festival. photograph liam durkin
Plenty to see and do: Heyfield’s Karen and Paul Coleman and Bairnsdale’s Janice and Allan Grassby took in the sights of the festival. photograph liam durkin