Why I Love the Alice Springs Beanie Festival

Beanie-feature

I was on a mission to find the perfect red beanie.

But when you’ve got over 6000 beanies to choose from, it was never going to be easy.

What on earth am I talking about?

Let me introduce you to the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. It’s a four day spectacle devoted to that most humble of head coverings, the handmade beanie.

Beanie-banner

What? I hear you say. Isn’t Alice Springs in a desert? Isn’t always just hot, hot, hot?

 Well, the answer to that a huge NO!

One of the fabulous things about central Australia is that we get a real winter. It’s not uncommon for us to have below zero Celsius temperatures overnight in June to August. We’ve even had temperatures as low as -7C.

 …So a deliciously warm beanie comes in handy around the campfire on those blessedly cold winter’s nights.

But a whole festival devoted to beanies? Surely not?!?

Every year for the past 18 years, the Alice Springs Beanie Festival has warmed the heads and hearts of central Australia.

It’s my favourite of all Alice Springs’ annual events.

Let me show you why.

It’s Quirky

For me, there is no other festival that captures the TRUE spirit of Alice Springs quite so well.

The Alice Springs Beanie Festival is diverse, slightly alternative, cosmopolitan, creative, down-to-earth and practical – just like the town itself.

When I first arrived in Alice back in 2001, I arrived in June. The beanie festival was the very first event I attended.

I was amazed by the beanies I saw. These just weren’t your Great Aunt Tolley’s beanies. These were true works of art. I’ve been almost every year since.

green-beanies

Each year, the beanie festival has a theme and exhibits the very best beanies in a gallery at the Araluen Arts Centre.

 This year’s theme was ‘Out of This World’.

Outer-space-beanies

No boring old tea-cosy-type beanies here!

 By the Community, For the Community

Each year, the Alice Springs community comes together and joins in. It’s a proper celebration of who we are.

The beanie festival creates work and income for Aboriginal women in remote communities.

Every year, the Ernabella (Pukatja) ladies come to the festival and give demonstrations of hand spinning wool.

Ernabella-weavers

They also showcase the beanies they’ve made from the wool:

Ernabella-beanies

The Tjanpi weavers also give raffia basket-making workshops – which are always very popular.

Tjanpi

‘Tjanpi’ (pronounced JARN-pea) means ‘grass’ in Pitjantjatjara.  Every year more and more communities are getting involved.

There’s  also fabulously yummy food, soup and cakes (there’s even a Beanie Festival Cookbook).

Cakes

There’s knitting, crocheting and even felt making workshops – many are free.

Felting

This year, there was also the Art Bus, a hop-on-hop-off bus which toured other local Aboriginal art and craft centres in Alice Springs.

Alice Springs, Aboriginal art centres

However, it’s Beanie Central where most people bee-line for when they first arrive. We’re all on a quest for the perfect beanie!

beanie-central

Over the years, I’ve amassed a large beanie and felt hat collection.

As it’s hard to figure out what to pick –there’s just soooo many amazing beanies- I now pick a colour or theme each year.

This year, I was looking for the perfect red beanie. I think I found it:

2014-06-21 10.27.15

Quick Facts:

The Alice Springs Beanie Festival is held every year on the second last weekend in June.

It’s held at Witchetty’s which is in the Araluen Art Centre, located on Larapinta Drive in Alice Springs.

It runs for four days, and there’s a an opening event on the Friday night. Workshops can be pre-booked through the Beanie Festival’s website.

The cost to enter is a gold coin donation. Opening hours seem to vary from year to year, so check the festival details on the website below.

The Beanie Festival’s website is here and also, make sure you ‘Like’ their Facebook page here.

4 Comments

  • Gary says:

    The Beanie Festival is an absolute delight. It is also one of the events that brings all people together on an equal footing; not all events do that as well as the Beanie Festival. There are no economic or cultural barriers at play here.
    A good story!

    • Amanda says:

      Oh! What a delight to see a comment from you, Gary. Thank you so much for leaving a comment and for the re-Tweet of the article, too. Hope all is well with you, and my daughter devoured the coffee, BTW! I’m going to have to order some more 🙂

      -Amanda

  • VICKI FOWLER says:

    I was there with my sister Sue. We came up for the week and even manager Hermansburg, Ormiston Gorge. Jessie Gap.Glen Helen,The telegraph Station.
    Feeding the wallabies at The gap. My mother had a Joey and she let me pat it.
    I have been before and I wanted to join another Tjanpi weaving course and I booked online and it was packed out and just wonderful. Valerie helped me with weaving with feathers. This along with many trips to The Beanie Festival and volunteering a wee bit every day was just wonderful. Jo Nixon is a tower of strength and she has many followers to the festival. Both Sue and I met so many wonderful interesting people from all over Australia and The volunteers are to be commended.Colour, creativity, people, fun, terrific cakes, classes, volunteers dinner. breakie at Siri’s it just goes on. We are back in Victoria now and when the pilot said we can’t open the plane doors due to heavy winds I hoped and hoped we would turn back to The Alice Springs Beanie Festival.

  • VICKI FOWLER says:

    Sorry my name was Vicki with her sister Sue.

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