Tumbafest sees thousands help town rise from the ashes

Tumbafest sees thousands show support for bushfire victims of Tumbarumba and Snowy Valleys | PHOTOS

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Lillian Bremner, 6, and her family sought shelter at 6-year-old Victoria McGrath's home during the fires. Picture: Emma Hillier

Lillian Bremner, 6, and her family sought shelter at 6-year-old Victoria McGrath's home during the fires. Picture: Emma Hillier

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With a long road ahead, residents and tourists from far and wide came together in support.

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Tumbafest was more than just an offering of food, wine, music and markets this year.

It was a display of strength, resilience and compassion from people near and far.

After the Dunns Road bushfire tore through more than 330,000 hectares of land across the Snowy Valleys, many had ruled out the concept of hosting the annual Tumbafest due to a lack of resources and excessive damage to properties and businesses who normally supply the food and wine.

But those who'd lost hope were wrong, and on Saturday, thousands of people poured through the festival gates for the first day of Tumbafest 2020.

The fight is still ahead for many.

Businesses, including Mt Tumbarumba Vineyard, face rebuilding physically, economically and emotionally.

Mt Tumbarumba Vineyard's owner Elvie Yates said they are heading in to their second year without a crop to harvest.

"We were very unfortunate in that we lost all of our crop last year to hail," she said.

This year, it was fire.

"Our winemaker said our grapes have the highest level of smoke taint he's ever seen, so it's a very challenging time," Ms Yates said.

"Now we are facing two seasons with no crop to harvest, so we will run out of wine before we are ready to reproduce next year, but hopefully we do have that good crop in 2021."

Mt Tumbaraumba Vineyard is located on the edge of the town, with the first fire threat coming down from the mountain bordering the property.

"It didn't quite reach us but gradually things burnt and then it came from Tooma way and Jingellic way so we were under threat for about three weeks," Ms Yates said.

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Briony Cottam, Kaitlin Cottam and Elvie Yates of Mt Tumbarumba Vineyard have a long way to go towards recovery. Picture: Jessica McLaughlin

CHALLENGE AHEAD: Briony Cottam, Kaitlin Cottam and Elvie Yates of Mt Tumbarumba Vineyard have a long way to go towards recovery. Picture: Jessica McLaughlin

"It burnt right down to our fence line."

Ms Yates and her husband have been growing their grapes for 30 years now, and call Tumbarumba home.

"My husband is from five generations of Tumbarumba heritage," she said.

"We've been coming to Tumbafest as a family since it started really, so we've seen it grow and move, and today the weather is perfect and everyone is in such a great mood which is so nice to see."

Tumbarumba resident Cameron Bremner is also dealing with the fire's aftermath.

"We stayed and fought," he said.

"The fires burnt everything but the house - the pastures and fences are all burnt.

"We lost 20 head of sheep and two weaners."

Joining in the high spirits of Tumbafest was a well needed distraction for Mr Bremner, given the task which lay ahead for him and many others.

"The cleanup is endless, trees are still falling down," he said.

"It's great to get here and take a break from that work and see everyone come together to show their support."

To the state's south east, hundreds of thousands of hectares of land was also burnt through from bushfires, including the town of Wingello to the east of Goulburn.

Hilton Edmonds and his wife Claire live in Wingello, where they fought to protect their home.

"I stayed for about three hours and made sure our house and those next door were all safe," Mr Edmonds said.

BIGGEST SUPPORTERS: Anne Irwin and Trevor Irwin arrive in Tumbarumba from NSW's east coast to show their support for those hit by fire. Picture: Emma Hillier

BIGGEST SUPPORTERS: Anne Irwin and Trevor Irwin arrive in Tumbarumba from NSW's east coast to show their support for those hit by fire. Picture: Emma Hillier

The town lost 12 houses, but 84 were saved, according to Mr Edmonds.

"It's just the cleaning up now which is the hard part," he said.

Since the fires were extinguished, the couple have spent their time showing their support to other fire-stricken communities.

"We've just been all down the south coast and come up through the mountains and we're realising just how much country has burnt and how much we've lost," Mr Edmonds said.

"We just want to support the other towns because we got so much support for ours.

"We had 30 fire brigades helping, we had brigades from Sydney even, it was incredible, that's what saved our town."

Thousands of those enjoying the festival were not victims of fires, but were on a mission to show their support to those who were.

Trevor Irwin travelled to Tumbafest from Albion Park, south of Woolongong, with his wife Anne.

"Our friend has a property just past Paddy's River Falls which got burnt but they were lucky in that their home wasn't lost," he said.

"We wanted to come and show our support and help bring some business to town for the weekend."

The story Tumbafest sees thousands help town rise from the ashes first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.

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