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On Friday 13 July, the Welcome and Opening Ceremony of the fifth-annual Willie Smith’s Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival, officially starts the three-day festival based on ancient pagan traditions to ensure a successful harvest for the apple orchard.

Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is closely connected with the land and pays respect to the valuable contribution of Aboriginal culture and heritage - this year working with the Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival to create the opening.

“This Welcome and Opening Ceremony invites people to consider the deep holding, guidance and protection offered by Country and by the Aboriginal community who continues to hold in our heart a hope for the healing of all beings,” explains Ruth Langford, an Aboriginal artist coordinating the spectacle.

“In times of darkness it is easy to lose our way and feel disconnected with our source of inspiration.

“Our ceremony is to tend to the flame that burns in our own heart. May we care for our creative passions that connects us with the joys of life. May we kindle the warmth of our hearts and offer that warmth to others when they are feeling cold, lost and alone.

“We offer this ceremony to hold in the warmth of our hearts those who, over this winter, have experienced loss, grief and isolation. May our internal flame burn brightly.”

The ceremony will be concluded with the burning of the 13m-tall Big Willie, a highlight of the festival for patrons.

Flaming arrows will be shot into the effigy and as it burns, so too will any bad spirits and negative energy - making way for new growth and fresh starts.

“The opening night of the festival has a wonderful warmth with a true sense of community connection,” Festival organiser Krystal Cox said.

“Thousands of locals and tourists will embrace the cold and dark of winter to warm their hearts and souls with this opening ceremony before settling in around the fire pots for a night of amazing local food, the best Tasmanian cider, wine and beer and some other worldly musical acts who will fire up the night.”