Family love blooms at Hedlow fest
IT'S a dusty drive to Hedlow Creek, but the warm Tropical Bloom welcome's well worth it.
'Aunty Linda' has arranged to meet me at the front gate and makes the introductions around the sizeable sea of canvas and bamboo growing out of a hillside above the beautiful serpentine creek, 20 minutes from Rockhampton.
For all its eco cred, the site echoes to the sound of a chain saw, as a totem pole is constructed in one of two live music arenas, but it will be finished before the crowds arrive from all over.
A few steps past the kids' play area, Linda's sister Nicola Apps is tending to her permaculture garden collection of flowers and vegetables.
She tells me her son Leo Honek lucked into the site five years ago, buying a work from indigenous artist, Joe Butler.
"He was telling Joe's wife how he wanted to run a festival, and dreamed of doing it out in this beautiful setting, and it just happened her daughter was married to this property owner's son.”
"It's a really happy relationship because a key thing behind this festival is reconciliation between the indigenous people and those of us who visit their land.”
Nicola admits Leo had a "pretty quirky” childhood in nearby Byfield, running barefoot and climbing trees.
"We started an alternative school in Yeppoon then he was home schooled for a while before he started mainstream school in Year 6,” she said.
A tiler by trade, Leo is evidently also entrepreneurial in spirit, having sold the luxury tents business which is nevertheless setting up on site, and now invested in a composting toilet venture.
"His prime motivation is to make the world a better place, both in terms of what he can offer people and the planet,” says his proud mum. "He's also doing his Masters in business and raising three children with his partner Cat.”
All of Nicola's children are out at Tropical Bloom for the weekend along with her grandchildren... and two ex-husbands. Indeed, Nick Smith, Leo's stepfather, has built a geodesic bamboo chill out tent next door. He's looking out for a tray of blue gum seedlings which the property owner's asked him to plant out near the creek bed this weekend, as part of ongoing rehabilitation efforts around the Lake Mary reserve.
Nicola reckons the secret to keeping the love flowing among this farflung tribe is to put the children first.
"Every decision we ever make about anything, we think about the kids' interests before our own,” she said. "If half the politicians did the same, we wouldn't be in half the trouble we are today.”
It takes another half hour - and a delicious lunch of vegetarian samosas in the mess tent, thanks to a guest chef from Tasmania - to track down Leo and Cat who are flat out overseeing 'glamping' arrangements.
There's already a group of backpackers from New Zealand browsing the jewellery tent, and a horde from High Valley Dawn permaculture farm in Rosslyn Bay arrive soon.
"Leo and I travelled around the world where we tapped into the sense of community which comes from celebrating the environment,” said Cat. "We came back here once we had kids because we wanted to be close to our family.
Our kids (aged 6 months to 5 years) are the inspiration behind Tropical Bloom; we put all our energy into creating the kids' space first and everything ripples out from there.”
It's a family environment which grows to embrace everyone who comes to visit, and those who come back to visit year after year.
Proud mum Nicola can't wait to see you all this weekend: ”We've grown our family... and now it's grown into a tribe. We welcome you to join us.”
Tropical Bloom 2019
- Lot 3, Lake Mary Rd, Hedlow Creek
- Friday 26 July 5pm to Sunday 28 July 3pm
- 2 Main Stages plus Healing Hub, Garden Dome, Gypsy Chill and Kids Corner programs
www.tropicalbloom.com.au or on facebook
- Opening ceremony Saturday 10am
- Main stage acts include Vaggaphonics, Brother Beans, Chocolate Strings, Meraki Circus, Bustaflux, Watasuni, Erb, Dingo Jones and more...
- Tranquility stage acts include Limerace, Kip 3.0, Kelbo Slice, Kirtan Chanting, Ant Nebula, Lady Haze, Sound for the Soul and more...
- Healing Hub events include yoga, dance, ascension, Maori massage and Authentic Relating
- Garden Dome events include composting secrets, intro to Win Hof method, bushwalk and talk with Mark Cacia and more...
- Kids corner events include face painting, dot painting, kids yoga, mud puddlers, movies and more...
- Closing ceremony Sunday 4.30pm