1 June 2023

'Bigger and better' Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival to attract crowds, business and community spirit

| Dione David
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There will be plenty of live entertainment at this year’s festival. Photos: Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival.

What started as a small art exhibition and a few market stalls on a walkway in Thirroul has, over three decades, grown into a beloved weekend-long event in the Wollongong social calendar.

And though the pandemic forced organisers to cancel or scale it down in recent times, this year the Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival will come roaring back in all its former glory, according to festival volunteer Kim Morris.

“It will be a return to what we’re used to,” she says. “In fact, it’ll be bigger and better than ever.”

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The festival began in 1993 as a humble platform for local artists to share their works. Over the years, it evolved into several iterations, sometimes requiring street closures.

The streets stay open these days, but the festival draws about 20,000 people to Thirroul over the three days – and locals reap multiple benefits.

“From an artist’s perspective, this is a platform from which to show and sell their art and also the chance to win a prize and build their profile,” she says.

“From a community point of view, this is a fantastic event for the whole family. And best of all, the money raised pays for the bulk of the event, and anything left is over goes back to the community via local projects.”

Over its 30 years, more than $800,000 has been raised through stallholder fees, donations and commissions on artworks, all of which has gone back into the community.

From recent festivals alone, the Austinmer Thirroul Lions Club have equally divided $39,000 of proceeds to the Australian Lions Foundation NSW Flood Relief Appeal, i98fm Illawarra Convoy organisation and the Disability Trust Kidswish.

Over the years, it has funded equipment for local surf clubs, art supplies for schools, equipment to assist local families caring for relatives with disabilities and helped establish the local Men’s Shed program.

It’s been good for local businesses as well.

“There’s a positive flow-on effect when visitors are coming to Thirroul, seeing how lovely it is, spending time here in the shops,” Kim says.

“Many make a little holiday out of it and stay for the weekend.”

This is why the 2023 Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival will kick off with a prelude called ‘Art in the Shops’, which will see over 30 local businesses displaying artworks for sale.

“It’s a sort of teaser for the main event, which takes place over the first weekend of June,” Kim says.

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This year the event takes place from Friday (2 June) to Sunday (4 June). It officially launches on the Friday night with the art exhibition opening, showcasing over 200 works predominantly from local artists.

Kicking off at 7 pm at the Thirroul Community Centre, a $20 ticket grants first access to view the artworks, mingle with some of the artists, enjoy refreshments, learn the winners of prizes in sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, people’s choice and art handler’s awards and perhaps even make a purchase.

A gold coin donation grants access to the exhibition for the rest of the weekend.

On Saturday, Thirroul Township will be peppered with great food, boutique shopping and art items displayed in local shops.

And on the Sunday comes the broader community highlight, when Thirroul Beach Reserve explodes with activations.

Dozens of market stalls will display art, décor, plants, furniture, clothing, jewellery and more. There will be food vans, show bags, pony rides and plenty of live entertainment.

Carnival rides include dodgems, a jumping castle and this year for the first time, an outdoor ‘ice’ skating rink.

The Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival is a not-for-profit event run by the Austinmer Thirroul Lions Club and volunteers.

The art exhibition art awards are made possible by generous sponsorship from local businesses and the festival is supported by the Wollongong City Council, Horizon Bank, IGA and i98FM.

For more information, visit Thirroul Seaside and Arts Festival.

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