La Fiera is a six-day festival set within the bustling country town of Myrtleford, situated on Victoria’s Great Alpine Road. Celebrating the Italian way of life in the Ovens Valley, the festival takes place in the middle of May at the end of harvest, when the deciduous trees still have their warm autumn colours on show, just before the chill of winter sets in.

These final glorious autumn days are shared with spectacular food, wine, art, heritage and historical displays, plus a living chess match – a live performance theatre art event for which La Fiera is famous. Now in its eleventh year, La Fiera Myrtleford this year features returning favourite events, plus many new ones – it promises six days of fun the Italian way from May 14–19, 2019.

Winner, and loser of last year's Grape Stomping competition, at La Fiera Myrtleford
Winner, and loser of last year’s Grape Stomping competition, at La Fiera Myrtleford

Celebrazione Michelini, the festival launch party at Myrtleford’s popular Michelini Wines, kicks off La Fiera, Tuesday 14 May. Tickets cost $35 and include a glass of sparkling on arrival and an authentic Italian supper. Michelini Wines is known for their premium Italian varietals and this year the cellar door will also host a selection of artwork from Queensland Aboriginal artist Billy Doolan’s Sicilian Dreaming – a touring exhibition that was launched in Italy in 2012 and opened by the Australian Vice Ambassador to Rome. Key works from the Doolan exhibition will also be on display at the Myrtleford Gallery hanging alongside new paintings by award-winning local artist Jim van Geet; plus a collection of regional art. As a first port of call, Essentials suggests visitors to the festival visit both Michelini Wines and Myrtleford Gallery to ensure the best culture elements are not missed.

Those who’ve visited the festival in recent years will know that La Fiera’s Food & Wine Festa held in the town’s Piazza is a major drawcard

Those who’ve visited the festival in recent years will know that La Fiera’s Food & Wine Festa held in the town’s Piazza is a major drawcard. With an overwhelming sense of energy and fun, and including abundant food, wine, singing and dancing, this insanely good all day event authentically recreates all the charm, friendliness and entertainment of an annual Italian village’s fare. Keeping things flavoursome and well hydrated, Alpine Valleys’ Vigneron Member Wineries will be on hand pouring their outstanding cool climate aromatic wines. Many are award-winning and are celebrated nationally in some of Australia’s best eateries. On the day there will also be regional produce stalls, servings of warm and hearty dishes from local Italian clubs, flame-roasted chestnuts, plus traditional sweet Italian pastries made on-site to indulge in: Saturday 18 May, 10.30am-4.30pm, Clyde Street Piazza.

Masterclass cooking events are often a sell-out feature of La Fiera
Masterclass cooking events are often a sell-out feature of La Fiera

La Fiera’s often sold-out series of Master Classes are taking place again this year, offering visitors the chance to learn from the local experts in their fields. Within the series, renowned chef Patrizia Simone will present a Chestnuts Masterclass, demonstrating how to use chestnuts in simple Italian dishes and in every day cooking. Presented by Chestnuts Australia, entry costs $15, priority seating is available by booking online at https://www.trybooking.com/478995

Another event that’s proven a year-on-year sell-out favourite is the Wild Mushroom Forage, this year held on Saturday 18, and Sunday May 19, from 10am. Learn as you take a guided walk to discover the secrets behind finding these wonderful natural treasures; plus taste a selection of preserved mushrooms after foraging for the wild ones with expert guides on the outskirts of Myrtleford. Limited Numbers. $45.00, booking online to secure a spot is vital: https://www.trybooking.com/478992

On the Saturday, the festival also features traditional cultural delights such as the West Wangaratta Primary School Italian Choir, the crowd-rousing Grape Stomping Competition (held in the Piazza) and plus a newer event that was a huge hit last year – one that has both visitors and local hospitality crowds grinning from ear-to-ear – the mad-crazed action of the Barista Racing competition. Set in an open-plan outdoor green field, barista teams must grind, froth and pour their way through an obstacles course set with coffee machines and grinders, carrying out a list of unusual challenges that culminate in serving the perfect cup; hopefully in record time.

The free polaroid-style photo booth that encourages kids to dress up and pose for instantly printed photo memories.
The free polaroid-style photo booth that encourages kids to dress up and pose for instantly printed photo memories.

Other new Saturday events will be ongoing throughout the day, including Bendigo Bank’s much loved family and children’s activities, held in the newly redesigned Jubilee Park. Here kids can enjoy free face painting, balloon animal gifts, a children’s activity tent, performer Anthony De Masi’s magic and comedy spots, plus Caroline’s brilliant polaroid-style photo booth that encourages kids to dress up and pose for instantly printed photo memories of the event.

This year’s Saturday entertainment showcases several choices for visitors, including: Sideshow Alley – with pre-show tapas – a night of freaks, fun and cabaret style entertainment showcasing a dramatic fire performance by Kinetic Chaos, at Reclaim Wine Bar Cafe (also on the Friday night); or the more relaxing choice of kicking back to watch a classic Italian Movie at EMPAC (Education Myrtleford Performing Arts Centre), where Welcome to the South will screen at 7pm. If one prefers to continue dancing the night away (after the jam-packed all day Piazza event!), then perhaps head down the road to Club Savoy’s Dinner dance, tonight with entertainer Dean Canan, (also Thursday to Sunday nights).

On Sunday May 19, La Fiera introduces a new event: the Rolling Gnocchi Bicycle Tour, 9am–2pm, where guests can enjoy a hands-on Italian gnocchi making lesson plus a gentle ride through the picturesque town of Myrtleford, visiting local food and wine producers.

Italian Clubs present a wide selection of authentic Italian meals and treats

In the Piazza, traditional food from Northern Italy will warm bellies, hearts and minds as Tastes of Trentino also serves up Polenta, Spezzatino (a delicious Italian beef stew), Salsice (continental sausage) and Crauti (sauerkraut). These can be paired with Vin Brulé (mulled wine) or your choice of Italian varietal greats that include marzemino, teroldego and pinot grigio, all served by Michelini Wines.

‘La Fiera is proud once again to have developed a programme of events that will delight everyone as each year our festival grows and becomes more exciting,’ says La Fiera spokesman John Costenaro.

La Fiera Myrtleford is one of Essentials’ favourite annual events as it represents a fantastic celebration of true immigrant culture. It’s uniquely Australian but also proudly Italian.

La Fiera, May 14–19, 2019
Myrtleford, Victoria
For 2019 full programme of key events and to book, visit:
lafiera.com.au

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