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The best festivals and events in South Australia this spring

By Max Anderson 

Adelaide’s festive calendar has always been at its most intense in ‘Mad March’, the month when the Adelaide Festival of Arts and Fringe Festival take over the entire city – and beyond. But thanks to a slew of newly-established events, the spring months are similarly starting to show some of that festive mania…

Fresh festivals!

After the closure of the Mitsubishi car factory at Tonsley in 2008, a new complex has risen in its place, serving as a hub for advanced manufacturers and tech companies. As part of that rebirth, October 2017 will see Tonsely hosting the inaugural Hybrid World Adelaide – a five-day futuristic expo fusing virtual worlds, visionary ideas and cutting-edge digital technologies. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds will be given glimpses of tomorrow that will affect all aspects of our lives, from energy to leisure. (And yes, there will be computer games…)

Ferment The Festival is another first for South Australia – an inaugural showcase for the artisan producers of fermented foods and beverages. When you stop and think about it (and you will) this includes a whole range of food we rarely associate with fermentation, including cheese and chocolate. Restaurant Orana chef Jock Zonfrillo (and Tasting Australia creative curator) and artisan cheese supremo Kris Lloyd, of Woodside Cheese Wrights, will be ensuring the four-day festival bubbles along in lovely Rundle Park, with plenty of premium SA fermented beverages. Which means beer and wine.

Open State launched last year with a remit to turn ideas into action ‘through workshops, pitch events, demonstrations, debates and street activations’. Energised by its success (and 25,000 attendees), Open State returns from September 28 to October 8 with a bigger program and even greater ambition. International speakers will be applying themselves to a range of hot-button issues from artificial intelligence to the future of democracy in the wake of Brexit and Trump.

The inaugural Tarnanthi Festival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art was held in 2015, becoming the largest Aboriginal art event ever staged in South Australia. More than 300 artists showcased their work at the event, principally at the Art Gallery of South Australia, but also at iconic venues like the Jam Factory, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and historic Port Adelaide. The event attracted some 50,000 people and, according to Gallery Director Nick Mitzevich, “shed light on Aboriginal art and culture in a way that we have never seen before”. Tarnanthi was such a hit that its future as a biennial festival was guaranteed for another five years. The festival – complete with Art Fair – returns in October.

The Adelaide Fashion Festival started life in suburban Adelaide in 2009. Then, two years ago, it received a $2m South Australian Government investment over four years, a new home in the city and sponsorship from Mercedes-Benz Adelaide. Now enjoying international attention, the annual AFF hosts a five-day program featuring ten runways and 20 events. As well as South Australian designs from Adelaidians like Acler designers Kathryn Forth and Julia Ritorto, Paolo Sebastian and Naomi Murrell, the event embraces creative talent from broader fashion and design sectors including hair, makeup, music, food, wine and photography.

Firm favourites

It’s not all newcomers adding to the festive spring air. The Royal Adelaide Show had its first incarnation in 1843, just seven years after Europeans first landed on South Australian shores. In 2017, the 242nd show will open its doors for 10 days in September, offering a signature mix of agricultural shows, displays and fairground rides. As South Australian as bung fritz, ‘The Show’ reliably attracts half a million visitors and 30,000 exhibitors.

The Bay to Birdwood is another institution, priding itself on being ‘the largest, continually held motoring event for veteran, vintage and classic vehicles held anywhere in the world’. In September, some 1000 vehicles – with many drivers in period dress – will be doggedly chugging from the beachside suburb of Glenelg, 70 kilometres into the Adelaide Hills to reach Birdwood, home to the National Motor Museum.

Running not too far behind the gas guzzlers are the solar cars. The biennial Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is now in its 30th year, drawing teams from all over the world to race their cutting-edge sun-powered vehicles 3000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide. In 1987, the winner of the inaugural event achieved an average speed of 66.9km/h; by 2015 that average was at 91.75km/h. This October, challengers will be praying for spring sunshine to help them speed into the record books.

Cultural showcases

Cultural celebrations are also alive and well in spring, with four well-established festivals returning to spread love and light in 2017.

The Adelaide Film Festival began in 2002, gaining a reputation for being brave and innovative. “Always fabulous, always interesting and always challenging,” said Margaret Pomeranz of the biennial event that earned a place on Variety’s ‘50 Unmissable Film Festivals’. The 2017 11-day event in October culminates in awards for film and documentary, picked from among hundreds of international entries.

OzAsia opened a decade ago, growing each year in scope and scale to become the nation’s premier international arts festival focussed on the region. Last year, 21,000 people attend the Moon Lantern Festival alone, the opening night ceremony that sees Australia’s largest lantern festival (and an arsenal of fireworks) light up Adelaide’s Riverbank Precinct.

The South Australian Living Artists Festival set out in 1998 to promote visual artists but also to engage as wide an audience as possible. To this end, SALA’s organisers drove events large and small into every corner of South Australia. So this August, expect works by SALA artists to be appearing right across the state, from the seas of Kangaroo Island to the opal fields of Coober Pedy, from the banks of the River Murray to the wine country of the Coonawarra.

And finally there’s Feast Festival, the cornerstone LBGTIQ event that joins with Sydney, Perth and Melbourne to celebrate Australian queer culture. In November 2017, Feast will be celebrating 20 years of being out and proud.


South Australia


Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are located at Adelaide Airport.

Top image: Kulata Tjuta Inma and Installation, 9 October 2015, Government House, Adelaide, commissioned by TARNANTHI | Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, courtesy Art Gallery of South Australia and Ernabella Arts, Iwantja Arts, Kaltjiti Arts, Mimili Maku Arts, Ninuku Arts, Tjala Arts and Tjungu Palya. Photo: Ben Searcy

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