By Claire Ottaviano
COVID-19 has struck another blow to the Hills region with the cancellation of the popular Spit in the Hills event for the second year in a row.
Only two weeks ago, Chidlow Tavern owner and event organiser Fran Berry made an impassioned plea to the Shire of Mundaring which saw a grant of $24,905 approved for the barbecue cook-off event.
Even with last weekend’s snap lockdown now lifted, unpredictable changes to restrictions on indoor and outdoor gathering numbers means the Tavern cannot safely proceed with more than 5000 expected to attend.
Ms Berry said it was devastating to cancel the Spit in the Hills event for the second time but it was not all doom and gloom as they were preparing to make their next event, the Chidlow BBQ Festival on September 11 and 12, even bigger.
“We feel like we’ve been beaten to death this year by COVID-19,” she said.
“It’s had impacts that are very difficult to imagine.
“It feels like we’re in some very strange sci-fi movie.
“But we’re refocusing our efforts and we have our fingers crossed for September.”
At the April Shire Council meeting, the Chidlow Tavern was successful in its bid for a $24,905 resilience grant to help fund the event after a deputation from Ms Berry saw the amount raised from staff’s originally recommended $5000.
“This year should be a celebration year for us, in November we would have completed 10 years at the Chidlow Tavern,” Ms Berry told Council.
“Sadly, it could also be our swan song.
“[The Tavern] is our vehicle to grow and support our local community by running large community and tourism focused events.”
As well as events designed to attract tourism into the region, including the Steel Bumper Car Cruise, Horse’s Birthday and Antiques Roadshow events, many are for charity including an annual Blue Car Cruise for Beyond Blue.
“We have invested over $1 million dollars and have done so happily, but COVID-19 has taken a huge toll, we’ve reached the bottom of our pockets and we’re working our backsides off to recover so we can continue doing what we do,” she said.
“With these funds, it is highly likely we will be able to recover losses we’ve suffered due to COVID and put us back to ground zero to allow us to continue working in the community for another year and hopefully another decade.”
The Tavern has contacted the Shire with the hope of keeping the grant money for the September event.
The current COVID-19 restrictions only apply to the Perth and Peel Regions, with Chidlow only 6km from the Wheatbelt region which has no restrictions.
This means events such as the Toodyay Moondyne Festival (see page 5), located in the Wheatbelt, can go ahead.
Around the eastern region, other events with different conditions are also continuing.
The Bickley Harvest Festival, May 1 to 2 in the Bickley Valley will continue as planned as the event is spread across 19 small venues which are already restricted in capacity.