Tim Ennis shares the story behind BlenheimFest – returning to Clare Valley, SA for the 8th time this Easter

Now in its eighth year, BlenheimFest is a locally supported, volunteer run, not-for-profit festival, held on Good Friday at Blenheim in the Clare Valley, South Australia. This year they’re extending their event to two days – starting it on the Thursday – while they continue to raise funds for New Hope Cambodia and throw an unforgettable party that showcases talented local musicians. Ahead of the 2017 event, we caught up with the festival’s Deputy Chairperson Tim “Tennis” Ennis to learn more about it, and find out what we have to look forward to in this year’s event.

Tell me a little bit about the origins of the event and how you came to be involved.

The festival was started in 2010 by two cousins – this is our 8th event – I met John through work, and the first band they ever had at the festival was also mates of mine from school. So I’ve been on the fringes because I knew those guys. Then it started growing, and John roped me in more and more until I ended up in the committee in 2013. But I’ve been hanging around the fringes, going along and having a good time since its inception.

Since then, how has the event evolved?

Back when I started we had 750 people attend, just on the Friday night, Good Friday, and each year we’ve added something new. Like we’ll grow our audience, or we’ll do something like add a second stage, as we did in 2015. That way we could have back-to-back music, so we could have a lot more artists. We also grew the Trumpet Lane Marketplace to make it a bit more of an appealing event space. More focused stalls and caterers, there’s a games area in the middle, which is a great chill out area. It started as a BYO event, and still is, and I originally came on board as the bar manager for the second stage area, when we added bar service to the event.

So as for this year, we’re still two stages, and as now we’ve expanded to two days for the first time. We have more arts performances this year, including the Bait Fridge crew, this group of local artists who set up their own event area. Live performance artwork, they set up this big stage thing, pour paint into lead blowers and stuff.

When they first came up they wanted to find all these pieces of metal, and they found this old fridge with “The Bait Fridge” written on it, and they set it up in front of the area and it became the name of their collective. Now they work together and make artworks and sculptures, they do stuff outside of the festival, but they started just a few years ago, at Blenheim.

Who are you most excited about seeing this year?

At the top end of the list we’ve got Sahara Beck and Tijuana Cartel. We’ve been listening to Tijuana Cartel for a while now, they make pretty great Australian electro music. And Sahara Beck has been just getting better and better… we’re pretty keen to get up there with her full band. In terms of the unknown, there’s Weezil, who come from Port Lincoln, about 8 hours from Adelaide. They’re a 7 piece brass band who started as a muck around, but before long they started selling out local shows, and built up a reputation as a nice big party band. So I’m pretty excited to show them off to the Adelaide scene, they haven’t toured over here yet.

Do you have a regular group of festival goers who keep coming back every year?

Yes definitely. This is our third year offering “BlenheimFest fam” tickets to people who have been before, they get pre-sale tickets, two weeks before it goes on general sale, without the lineup. We like loyalty, and we ask them to trust us ,and that’s had great uptake. We sold out of our pre-sale allowance this year. They trust that we put on a good show. People keep coming back year after year.

What should people attending for the first time know about the event?

The thing we’re really proud of is that it’s a really chilled vibe. Everything we do, you won’t see sponsorship everywhere – no Cooper’s Umbrellas. It’s put on by volunteers, in such a great location in Clare Valley – all the beers and wines are from the region – there’s always something to do. The marketplace to wander around, 3D radio will be coming and broadcasting the sets live, there’s live art and the two stages. So you can even hear the sets from your campsite. It’s really relaxed, it started as a party for some mates. We’ve gotten bigger and more professional, but we’ve kept that chilled vibe and at the end of the day, it’s still just about some mates who want to put on a party in South Australia.

Can you tell me a bit about the charity component to the event?

The whole thing is not-for-profit. No one from the committee takes a payment. We donate all proceeds to charity. Historically we’ve given to a Cambodian NGO, New Hope Cambodia, some of our members had a connection with Cambodia. And we have an ongoing commitment to give to some local causes as well, like the local Clare Valley School Music Program, and money to the restoration of the local town hall.

BlenheimFest is held on April 13th and 14th in Clare Valley, South Australia. For tickets and more details head HERE.



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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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