Bold art, artisan crafts and big beards

Bold art, artisan crafts big beards – the Ballarat Heritage Festival is back better than ever, running from May 7 to 30.

The festival, originally a single-weekend affair, is running for more than three weeks for the first time in the event’s history.

After the event was held online in 2020, this year’s Heritage Festival is set to be not only a celebration of the city’s rich history, but a chance for people to reconnect and celebrate being able to come together and experience what Ballarat is all about.

The beautiful buildings set the scene for what the festival has in store. But don’t expect traditional exhibitions that match the age of the architecture, this festival is all about mixing old and new, retro vibes paired with innovative thinking, celebrating country and culture, a city that’s proud and historic while evolving to meet the needs of its community.

Expect thought provoking art, hands on experiences, exciting installations and the ever-popular beard & stache competition.

While the festival is a celebration of the region’s rich heritage, the wonder of yesteryear will be brought to patrons through innovative displays, including augmented reality, for a truly immersive experience.

From beer school and instagrammable public art installations to craft demonstrations and progressive lunches, this year’s extended 24 day program sees the return of festival favourites as well as a series of new COVID-safe activations to discover.

Enjoy a self-guided augmented reality walk at your own pace and take a glimpse of Ballarat through the eyes of those gone before. Follow the trail with your phone in-hand to uncover scenes from Ballarat’s past.

While you’re in town, experience the thriving foodie scene, don’t forget to grab a coffee, a cocktail and a meal at one of the many amazing establishments, many of those housed in some of the most beautiful heritage buildings that adorn the Ballarat streets. As part of the festival, there will be a number of special foodie events, including beer school, high tea and a picnic in a cemetery.

Dust off your tweed, oil up your retro bikes, sign up for the Beard & Stache Competition or take a ride on a steam locomotive. Then wash it all down with a heritage beer and say cheers to Ballarat, rich with history, rich with culture.


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Craft Lab & Design Expo: 15, 16, 22, 23 May

An initiative of the UNESCO Creative City of Craft & Folk Arts program, this expo will showcase highly skilled practitioners, who will trace their heritage through the language of their crafts.

This two-weekend event will represent up to 18 different trades, makers and crafters with a spotlight on First Nations creatives. Visitors will walk through a curated exhibition of their exemplary works and experience live demonstrations of their crafts. They will also be able to buy unique hand-crafted items straight from the makers.

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Ballarat Tweed Ride: Saturday 8 May

Ride through Ballarat’s historic and picturesque autumn streets in high style. This is a casual event of fashion, cycling and fun. Riders dress in vintage and heritage-inspired outfits wearing tweeds, velvets, capes and kilts and ride through Ballarat’s beautiful streets.

All bikes are welcome, however, the best vintage, replica, interesting and stylish bikes will be invited to enter the Tweed Fashion’s on the Field at the Ballarat Mining Exchange.

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Steam Train Shuttles: Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 May

Steamrail Victoria invites you to ride their historical steam shuttles, departing from the heritage Ballarat Railway Station.

Journey behind two vintage steam locomotives, including 132-year-old Y112, built at the Phoenix Foundry in the heart of Ballarat. Listen to the engines work hard up the hill towards Melbourne, before they branch off on the old line towards Geelong, for a scenic return ride towards the town of Lal Lal. From here, the second locomotive will take charge and lead us back towards Ballarat Station, completing the one-hour journey. With V/Line’s modern high-speed trains speeding past, you will travel at a more leisurely pace, experiencing ‘old-school’ air-con with the windows open in our heritage wooden carriages dating back to 1906.

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Ballarat Nostalgia: everyday

Instagram-favourites Sugar Republic will bring various Ballarat locations to life with a distinct nostalgic feel for the Ballarat you remember as a kid.

Be transported into an experience with a modern twist. You may strike it rich with gold shimmers, get lost in neon or send yourself back in time. Take a leisurely walk around the Ballarat CBD and Lake Wendouree precincts to experience the pop-up fun throughout the Heritage Festival.

Beard & Stache Competition: Saturday 29 May

The Ballarat Beard & Stache Competition is an annual event celebrating all forms of facial hair.

With more than $1000 in prizes the Beard & Stache Competition is one not to be missed by those with a face full of hair or those who are keen to something a little different, as well as the men’s facial hair categories, there will be a Just For Fun category for gentlemen, ladies and children who want to get creative.

Hosted at Hop Temple, this event promises good food, good beer and good beards.

Self-Guided Digital Heritage Tours: everyday

Explore Ballarat’s diverse historical landmarks, and experience a new way to interact with the heritage streetscapes. There are 10 locations to visit, and just by scanning a QR code, you can experience the history through a new augmented reality platform. This experience is done best with the audio tour, which includes compelling stories from various perspectives, featuring interesting and quirky facts about each location.

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