The careful planning and dedication of the Koroit Irish Festival volunteer committee has led to a sold-out event.
Festival president Adele MacDonald was thrilled the event had been well-received by the community and people from across the country.
"This is a first for us," she said. "To have a sell-out event is not only a credit to the passionate, hardworking committee, but to everyone who makes this festival what it is.
"As organisers, it's good to know that we're putting on a festival that people love returning to year after year."
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Anthony Dowling has been an integral part of the committee for 24 years, with the exception of a two-year break, and was celebrating the hard work of his peers.
"It's a magnificent testimony to the previous festivals to have this event sell-out," he said. "It's an authentic , community festival and people want to come and join.
"We have the reputation of the number one Irish festival in Australia."
The committee is expecting up to 3500 people through the gates over the weekend with the coronavirus pandemic forcing the committee to adhere to a strict COVIDSafe plan with controlled numbers.
In a festival-first, the committee pivoted to online tickets with a massive spike after the ABC Backroads featured Koroit on its program in January 2020.
"We've been very fortunate to have won the hearts of the nation after Backroads last year," Mrs MacDonald said. "We've had a huge response from viewers booking tickets to come and celebrate in the vibrant Irish festivities.
"After Backroads, I just saw the phone light up with emails, calls and people asking 'where is this place?'. What started as very much a community event 25 years ago has this year seen 80 per cent of ticket holders coming from outside of our region.
"Having a sell-out is the next step for our festival and the region. We get the spin-off tourism from Folkie and speedway; now they're getting the spin-off from us as well.
"Continuing to gain widespread exposure over the years and word of mouth has certainly helped the festival grow in popularity."
While previous years saw more people attend the festival, the strict COVIDSafe plans meant attendee numbers must be known and controlled at all times.
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"We started our covid planning way back in January with a low capacity rate," Mrs MacDonald said. "As restrictions continued to ease and we kept working with the state government, we were allowed to increase our capacity.
"We wanted to make sure the event would be manageable for our volunteer committee and safe for everyone coming in."
Friday's opening night concert at the Koroit Theatre was the first event to sell-out with a wait list of 200 people amounting quickly.
Mrs MacDonald said while there were some changes to the 2021 event due to the coronavirus safety plans, the committee was committed to ensuring the smooth transitions of the program for future years.
"We've had unreal interest in this year's event, that's why we want to do it well, then people will keep coming back," she said.
"There's a lot of new components to this year's event, primarily it is the ticketing. We've also shortened the street we'll be using so we can better manage the entrance and exits. The whole street will still be closed as normal. We get to use our beautiful theatre as the gateway.
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