After a smaller, more intimate Port Fairy Folk Festival last year, the town is buzzing with anticipation, as festival goers and holiday makers gear up for a big long weekend.
The widely-acclaimed music event was adapted last year into a smaller concert series due to the pandemic. It follows a lackluster January tourist season for the town with businesses forced to close or limit their hours due to rising COVID-19 infections and staff shortages.
Port Fairy business owners are excited to reap the rewards of a town again bustling with people, in what is traditionally one of the last busy summer tourist weekends.
Traders reported a positive and excited vibe in the town and said visitors began arriving on Monday.
The Passage Port Fairy owner Regan Luhrs said while the event was a drawcard, some long weekend visitors chose to holiday in Port Fairy and didn't set foot in the festival arena.
She said a four or five night minimum on accommodation meant some people were staying in the town longer than previous years.
"With my B&B I put a four night minimum on it and people have put a certain minimum amount to make people come earlier," Ms Luhrs said. "I had a couple in yesterday and they said 'we had to stay five nights' so they came on Wednesday."
She said she was fortunate to stay open over the summer period, operating with two team members who worked six days straight to cover staff shortages.
She said while the town's hospitality workers were flat out this weekend, the March and June long weekends were on a par for her clothing business, with many festival goers focused on the music, rather than shopping.
Star of the West Hotel publicans Caroline and Stephen Lumley said they'd be busy and there would be a good vibe across the weekend. Mrs Lumley said despite the smaller festival event last year "it felt like forever" since big crowds descended on the town for the event.
She said they missed "a week or two" of trade in January and were looking forward to welcoming patrons back.
"It was terrible because that's the time people come into town," Mrs Lumley said. "The whole of January was pretty quiet because people usually start to head back home in the second week anyway. It was a bit quiet but that was across Victoria."
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Port Fairy IGA owner Colin Cleary said the town's people were "getting ready and as busy as anything".
"Everyone's happy to have it and they've got a bit more happening in the street, whereas in the last few years they haven't, which should be good," Mr Cleary said.
"Weather permitting, there will be a lot of people in town. People who haven't been able to come for two years. It's a big weekend."
John Stapleton from The Village Bakehouse said its staff were "ready to go as numbers swell to 40,000 in town".
Decked Out on Bank sales assistant Leiza Clifton said they were really excited for this year's festival.
"We've got lots of stock that's just been delivered and we're unpacking madly," Mrs Clifton said. "The buzz started on Monday with lots of people starting to move in. There's an excited vibe in the town."
She said after a slow summer "it's a positive for everyone", urging people to be mindful that "COVID-19 still exists".
"It's very exciting. I think everyone has a very positive outlook about the event. It's been a long time in the making."
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