Backpacking in Australia: Taste The Harvest Festival in Devonport, Tasmania

Backpacking in Australia: Taste The Harvest Festival in Devonport, Tasmania

Harvesting, fishing and farming work are the main industries on the south Australian island of Tasmania. Within a week of living in “Tassie” I had got myself one of those farming and harvest jobs – I was a broccoli picker. I stayed at first in the city of Devonport. I had looked for a flat there, but ended up staying in a 3 bed dormitory in Tasman Backpackers. I will mention Tasman Backpackers again and it is worthy of having a breath of its own. It is one of three places I stayed while in the city of Devonport, and it was from there that I went to a festival in March 2010.
The Festival was called “Taste The Harvest” and is possibly the biggest event in Devonport’s year. Devonport is a quiet, one levelled town. No high rise buildings, one nightclub, and few people around. Yet it still manages to be the third biggest city on the island. Normally I would like to work every single day on the farm, as days off tend to be meaningless when you live in a place you have seen everything there is to see, but it was lucky that I was off on Sunday 7th March, the day of “Taste The Harvest.”
It is a festival for food, drink, agriculture and music. It was held inside purpose built fenced off area at Mersey Foreshore next to Devonport’s harbour. Phil and Fran, the Anglo-Italian couple from work were attending and we would meet up with them, but I was going with Jesper. My Danish room-mate and good friend. The Festival would run from 11am until about 8pm. Jesper worked on potatoes, I worked on broccoli and we both had the day off.
So we got to the gates of “Taste The Harvest” just after 12 noon. It was a $10 entry fee, which put most “backpackers” and “seasonal harvest workers” off going. It didn’t put me off, it was something to do on a day off in Devonport. At the entrance we got a programme each which explained what was where. There were a few stages hosting different events. Two were for music, main stage and acoustic stage. There was a cooking demo stage and a kids stage.
It was all very well organised. A smile was raised immediately when just past the entrance I heard the band on the acoustic stage playing a little Northern Irish classic song…The Starr of The County Down. Of course, I was probably the only person there actually from County Down! I quickly got my video camera out and made a quick video of it. It was refreshing to hear that style of music, here in Tasmania. 
We walked round all the stands to start with – basically it’s all harvest related. There was a section from local harvest company “Harvest Moon” and I got my photo taken by the broccoli information section. There was free fresh crunchy carrots there to munch on. We had a wander round then had a local beer – the first time I’d tried a non commercial Tasmanian Beer!
I tried the Porter Beer, which was a mixture of chocolate and caramel. It cost $6 for a “pot”, which is hardly cheap. But special. The beer was made by Iron House Brewery, based near Falmouth on the East Coast of Tasmania. Jesper tried the lager. I kept the plastic glass as a souvenir, and I still have it in my cutlery and crockery section in my car!
WE sat down with our beers on the banks of a hill at the back of the main stage arena area. There I started to read the programme and highlight things I wanted to do or see. There was a kiddies section, and in the programme was a photo of a guy dressed as a massive broccoli! This was hilarious and I definitely wanted my photo taken by it, as I was working on broccoli for a long time.
Then we saw Phil and Francesca walk past so called them over, and the two of them agreed that we should get our photo took with the big broccoli guy. It didn’t say where it was, but we were sure we would find it. There was a band on the main stage at this point called High Shangrila. Francesca had also got her hair dyed purple, for just $2, so I decided I had to have mine done green.
First Jesper and I thought we would eat – there were so many food stalls we were spoilt for choice, but on a working travelers budget of course. There were sausages for $3, but we upped it a bit and decided on Fish and Chips! Well in Tassie Fish and Chips is probably the island’s most popular dish. Local seafood Restaurant, Sharkies had a wee stall, with a big queue, so that was the place to go. Fish and chips there is quality and today cost just $5 for a Tas Flake and Chips. (basically Tasmanian fish and chips). 
I was order number 55 and it came on a plastic plate with plastic knife and fork. The fish was devoured quickly. It was gorgeous. Fish in Tasmania really does taste better. I also remembered at this point that Sharkies was actually the name of an old pool and sports bar back in Bournemouth, England. I spent around 6 years living in Bournemouth, and actually watched the Azerbaijan v Northern Ireland World Cup Qualifier in October 2004 in that bar. The only significance to the day was that I was also wearing my Northern Ireland shirt.
Then we met Phil and Francesca again (we had agreed a time and place), but unfortunately we could not find the “big broccoli” anywhere. We wondered if it was just a photo to tease us in the programme. I asked a few people amongst the organisers and they didn’t see the “big broccoli”, so we were out of luck. It didn’t exist! Aw well!
It was time to relax again (with water this time) and watch the next band on the main stage. They were called Nine Lives and they did a version of “Oh Darling!” by The Beatles. Then…the smallness of the planet came into play again. Jesper and I were sat there and the guy in front turns round to me, spotting my Northern Ireland top and says “where did you get that top?”
Thinking I was maybe a foreigner or a Tassie resident, I was shocked at the random question. But it wasn;t random! This was Andrew from Larne! A fellow Northern Irish man, and not just one but two. His friend Will was there too. They are permanent Tasmanian residents, and have lived away from Northern Ireland for 20 odd years. They were their with their families, they had married Australian girls and had some kids with them. It was nice to have a chat with them. Although sadly I never saw them again, and somehow missed the chance to tell them about the TasmaNIan WilderNISC and a few drinks down Molly Malones one night. Nice to know the support for my wee country is still there though!
There were some random acts of entertainment on the day. I laughed at and enjoyed the “Mario Brothers” act which was basically a few teenagers mimmicking a computer game on stage. It was something quite different and innovative. There was also a juggler on stage and some dancers.
Jesper and I then spotted Sara and Elaine from the hostel walking by so we popped over to say hello. It turned out they had got in for free and were doing a bit of tidying up after the festival to earn a bit of extra cash. Something Jesper and I would have done had we known about it.
With the sky darkening, we both felt we should have one more alcoholic drink to sample some of the Tassie wines, and chill out at the acoustic stage before heading back to the hostel. I opted for a Blueberry wine. Which was $4, reasonably priced actually for a quality product. It was by a wine company in the Great Western Tiers, where I later would live in Poatina.
We arrived at the main stage to find the delightfully perky and pretty Kristy Tucker on stage. A lovely name that, and a lady with looks and personality to match on stage. She was woo-ing the crowds and having a ball. She sang cover versions of a lot of popular songs, using only her acoustic guitar. Sitting down by Devonport waterfront, this was as relaxed as life can get. She played “I’ll Get Over You” (announcing “a very random song here”), Valerie ( a song I hate, but she somehow made it bearable) and Superstition. 

Kristy is a nice name actually and one I never really heard of until arrival in Australia. I have worked with two young ladies called Kristie and Cristi. Firstly I worked with Kristie Lee Jankowski in PJ Gallagher’s Irish Pub in Parramatta, secondly I was cutting broccoli and cauliflower with Cristi Emery, in north Tasmania. So three Kristy’s all spelt differently. But all very nice ladies.

Tonight’s Kristy, Kristy Tucker announced she was taking a break. But in the meantime, we were treated to a band of teenagers. Five young local girls, who when walking onto the stage I thought they wouldn’t be good! I was so surprised! They were excellent. Their band was called Fiori (I remembered a one time Italian midfielder with a bit of class by the name Fiore). They did cover versions and had outstanding vocals. The best songs were Mercy (featuring Rock DJ) and Kids In America. They livened up the crowd and were loving it. After Fiori finished it was time for our final walk round the festival before returning to watch the end of Kristy Tucker’s set, with the sun going down.
In between we managed to see a Slipstream Circus with Samba Dancers and a band called Giant Hamsters. Giant Hamsters played “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, which I filmed and was happy about. I love that song. One of the band members was an old friend of Michael Hutchence (ex-lead singer of Australian band INXS and one time sex partner of Kylie Minogue) and so he dedicated a song to Michael “who’s probably up in heaven writing songs.” It was a nice gesture and people applauded. Hutchence, rock ‘n’ roll king, was found hanging from a chandelair in a well documented suicide back in 1997. 

I popped to the Gingerbread House Hostel stand after this to enquire about weekly rent. I did consider staying there for a while, but it was $120 per week, and without proper kitchen facilities. This was the hostel I first stayed in (with Daniel, Neil and Paul) on my very first night in Tasmania. It is also where Chaz who met me and launched a TasmaNIa Norn Iron Supporters Club stayed. I chatted to Melissa there and then decided to buy one of their Kangaroo Chilli Pies. It cost $4 and I was informed it was made by Chaz, the Belfast boy himself! I enjoyed it as we headed back for the encore of Kristy Tucker…


Kristy certainly knew how to entertain the crowds. More people had turned up, some were up front dancing. She played a song called “Your Sex Is ON Fire” which is very popular here in Australia. The song is by Kings of Leon. I once worked behind the bar for one of their concerts back in 2008 at the Bournemouth International Centre. While working there that night, I served two of Squid’s daughters! Squid was a member of the SOENISC along with me. The song evoked memories of that as I gazed into the darkening Autumn sky.


Then Kristy started playing The Gambler, another popular song in Australia. This was hit of the night for me. The wonderful image of the Spirit of Tasmania coming in as Kristy was bursting through the song will live forever. A nice memory. She said “do you think those guys on the boat can hear us?” She called up to those out on deck on the ferry. “Hello everybody on the Spirit” and “welcome to Tasmania!” Some of them cheered. Some of the crowd were singing. Time was up soon after and Jesper and I headed back to the hostel after a great day out.

So I never saw the “big broccoli” for that photo opportunity, and I didn’t get my hair dyed green. But I had fun at Taste The Harvest, Devonport, 7th March 2010.
Who Went – Jonny Blair, Jesper Hansen, Phil and Fran, Sara and Elaine
SOME VIDEOS I TOOKfrom the Taste the Harvest Festival in Devonport, Tasmania:






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