Let me start by saying I LOVE WINTER. While I’m pretty sure this makes me unaustralian (I promise I like the beach, does that help? Can I stay?) Winter is my favourite season by far. Winter has snow, sand’s cooler, popular cousin. Winter doesn’t burn my pasty, absolutely-just-the-whitest skin …as much as Summer does. My birthday is in Winter, it’s more comfortable to cuddle in Winter, and I look fucking adorable in beanies!
Therefore, it may surprise some people to know that this year was the first year I had ever attended Katoomba‘s completely wild Winter Magic Festival. With no idea of what to expect, we set out from Sydney in the mist and rain, armed with face-paint and a sense of adventure: Katoomba did not disappoint.
The Winter Magic Festival is The Blue Mountains‘ highest profile event, held every year to celebrate the Winter Solstice in the arts and culture centre of NSW. And, damn, it was magical. The main street of Katoomba is closed to traffic and transformed into an incredible hippie paradise, with stalls, musicians, dancers, choirs, artists and drummers all celebrating the coming cold. As I crossed under Katoomba train station, it was as if I had emerged in this cool, pagan world. All I could see were amazing costumes, nature woven into hair and clothes, people of all ages and backgrounds wandering down the street, ready to ring in the Solstice.
Almost immediately, I was greeted by a giant paper mache Tony Abbott who was posing for photo ops with the animated crowd, along with a sign “It’s like I never left.” Oh Tony, so cheeky.
That was probably what surprised me the most about the Winter Magic Festival: it was oddly political. I was so excited to see so many people taking an active stance on political issues both local to them and on a broader, nation-wide level. I suppose they were presented with a platform and they were eager to take full advantage of that. And I say, good on them!
While the stores were lovely – I picked up a cute flower crown, some sick tie dye tops and about 100 different types of festival food (corn on the cob forever <3 ) – the highlight of the day was definitely the parade. Although slow to start, once it was underway it was, as the name suggests, nothing short of magical.
It began with some old school hippies dancing down the main street to the beat of drums hoisted under a giant five point star made of twigs. Yes, it did officially feel like I had stepped into another world entirely.
The parade continued with several bands, Greens members, people protesting a Western Sydney airport, the school children of Katoomba, belly-dancers, and a LGBTQIA+ parade.
All in all I had a wonderful time exploring the mountains in misty weather and the festival was everything I could have hoped for. If you get the chance to, make sure you check out the Winter Magic Festival next year and celebrate the Winter Solstice in the most old-school-cool style possible.