WINTER in Ballarat conjures up images of cosying up by the fire, rugging up in warm woollies, coats and scarves, indulging in hearty fare and hot chocolate, and treading along the glistening streetscapes, umbrella in tow.
But perhaps what makes the winter season most enjoyable is the city’s ability to embrace it. Over the last few years, Ballarat has come to life in the wintertime with a series of festivals and events dedicated to saluting the chilly season and encouraging more and more people to delve into the wonders of their city.
One such example is Sovereign Hill’s Winter Wonderlights: Christmas in July event. A festival that not only celebrates winter, but takes visitors on a mystical journey that stimulates all five of their senses.
By day, visitors are transported to another time and place as snowflakes fall gently at regular intervals to settle on the Victorian-style buildings, and the smell of Christmas treats and spices fills the air. As the sun sets, traditional carols ring out across the main street and fire-pits blaze fiercely from every corner. At nightfall, the magic really begins when Sovereign Hill becomes the canvas for an enchanting sound-and-light show.
This event has become an integral part of the winter calendar, attracting visitors from near and far who are seeking to immerse themselves in a magical wonderland.
According to Sovereign Hill director of marketing Jennifer Ganske, the concept wasn’t originally thought to be such a roaring success.
“When we first conceived the idea to create a mid-year event, many thought it was too risky,” Ms Ganske says. “But visitors from all over Australia and many other parts of the globe have embraced this event and look forward to it now as a part of Ballarat’s winter calendar."
The Winter Wonderlights: Christmas in July event will be held as part of the Ballarat Winter Festival, bringing the city to life with a plethora of events and activities in celebration of winter including the City of Ballarat’s much-loved ice-skating rink, art exhibitions and several food and wine offerings.
“At Sovereign Hill, we love to think outside the box and we work hard to deliver innovative, unique, and unexpected events,” Ms Ganske says. “We’ve managed to turn the slowest month of the year into the busiest.
“Our team works tirelessly to grow and enhance the Winter Wonderlights experience, which has seen the event grow in size to thirty days, and visitor numbers double.
“Working with world-class technology and a level of innovation that is second-to-none is the key to constantly re-inventing Sovereign Hill, while telling the story of the 1850s.”