PORT Fairy Folk Festival went out with a bang on Monday, with crowds gathering at the Reardon Theatre for an energetic final performance.
Singer-songwriter Kee'ahn and Mick Thomas' Roving Commission took to the stage for the fourth concert in the festival's 2021 series.
Both musicians said they were looking forward to returning in 2022.
"It will be my first time so I'm really excited to experience everything from Folkie; seeing other artists and just being on stage," Kee'ahn said.
"I struggled writing new music in 2020 but I managed to put out my new single Better Things and it got a lot of great support which is how I'm here today at this gig and the folk festival next year.
"It was up and down but mostly there were a lot of positives for me."
Kee'ahn's soulful, gentle performance fell on International Women's Day.
For the 22-year-old Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal and Badu Island songbird, the day honoured generations of women before.
"For myself I'm honouring the women before me who didn't have as much as I have today and sending that love to all the women who live in our society who are still working towards each other.
"I think it's a day to celebrate and come together."
Thomas looks forward to the reunion of his legendary 90s band Weddings, Parties, Anything at next year's festival.
"The whole idea of getting Weddings back together every 10 or so years is we get to play on big stages," he said.
"It's nice every now and then to remind ourselves we were in this big band and play at mind-numbing volumes to big crowds.
"One of the things of finishing a band like that is I felt constricted by a lot of the things that band was expected to be and do live. I guess as long as it's in its box it's really to nice to get back with those people you made music with and reassure yourself you did go through that and are worthy of that.
"In the right context it's fun, I think with the year that we all had last year we can't be too precious if people want us to do it then let's go out and do it."
The silver lining of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown was getting more time to write new material.
"One thing that older musicians crave is time and all of a sudden I had that," he said.
"We made one record during the first lockdown and then recorded more stuff, and we've got a new record set to come out.
"It was kind of enjoyable in some ways - homeschooling aside - but there were some really good elements for me."
It was Melbourne's Michael Crask and Barbara Minto's 15th Port Fairy Folk Festival and they already have their tickets to next year locked in.
They attended three of the concerts - the fourth was sold out before they could get tickets.
"It's been great, we're pleased the festival were able to put something on. we're regulars to the festival and found this year we could really spend time exploring Port Fairy," Ms Minto said.
"We've got our tickets for next year and accommodation booked.
"We usually know a few acts on the lineup and can trust that the others will be good because the organisers have such good taste."
Geelong's Carl Segale said the Keep the Circle Unbroken special event was a highlight.
"We enjoyed all the concerts and even the free music on the Civic Green, it was a great music-filled weekend," he said.
"It was really good to see all four concerts sold out, we ended up making a long weekend out of it.
"It all came together really nicely."
Festival founder and former director Jamie McKew reminisced on how the first festival in 1977 was also held at the Reardon Theatre.
"It's been a very different event but that's what happens when there's a pandemic," he said.
"Port Fairy has pulled together another lovely musical event.
"It's been a lot of fun and we've had a great response from the audience.
"It's been a slower festival which has been nice, people have really been able to take in more of what the town has to offer.
"We're very conscious of artists having such a hard time over the past year, with music businesses starting up slowly again we feel it's been a big success."
Over 3000 tickets for Port Fairy Folk Festival 2022 have been sold, much to the delight of festival president John Young.
"We've sold thousands in the first couple of days which really shows an excitement for Folkie," he said.
"It's a beloved destination to experience folk music.
"We were anxious coming into Friday night but it went off like a bomb.
"We're hoping to get the second tranche of tickets sold, about 5000, then announce the next lot of acts.
"People really enjoyed the opportunity to be here and the artists themselves are so thankful they could get up off the floor."
Port Fairy businesses reported strong support over the long weekend.
Love Her Madly owner Kelly Harrip said customers wanted to continue to support the south-west even without the usual festival offerings.
"It's been really different in terms of the street layout and big set up but in saying that people have been coming anyway to support Port Fairy and the music industry."
Central Motel owner Peter Langley said his motel was fully booked on Saturday and Sunday.
"It's not been as stable as Folkie usually gives us but the smaller festival has worked," he said.
"Just because people love getting away for the long weekend they still came down even without a ticket to the main festival.
"Folkie did a good job to keep patrons interested and the tickets went really quickly so there's certainly an appetite for it."
Mr Langley is nervous for the upcoming winter.
"It hasn't been the bumper injection of funds you need in Port Fairy before winter," he said.
"There was no Jazz or Classical festival and no Folkie really, not withstanding a mini one.
"We're worried about what might happen when Job Keeper is finished at the end of March.
"As an accommodation tourism business we're bracing ourselves for what's coming up.
"If we get locked down again regional Victoria will suffer.
"It's not good for small business, it's been killing us.
"When the five day lockdown happened we lost $15,000 that weekend as well as the people booked for the next two to three weeks. 70 room nights were cancelled like that.
"The strategy has to be different next time."
Mr Langley hopes people will consider supporting upcoming events in the town like the Port Fairy Winter Weekends.
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