Adelaide Festival of the Arts

South Australia’s nickname is the Festival State. On its calendar are more than 400 festivals, carnivals, and sporting events ranging from the throaty high-octane roar of V-8 motor racing to the Festival of Ideas, from the Tour Down Under—the most prestigious cycling event in the Southern Hemisphere—to the Bohemian funkiness of the Fringe Festival.
The most famous event is the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. For glamour, excitement, and size, it easily surpasses anything else of the sort in Australia. Held over three weeks in March, on even-numbered years, it attracts major artists from Australia and around the world. The festival began modestly in 1960 with 51 shows, but has burgeoned into a feast of more than 300 plays, concerts, films, dance performances, and cabaret acts. Ticket prices are quite reasonable, and for those on a tight budget there are free weekend concerts and fireworks displays on the banks of the Torrens River. The weather in Adelaide in March is generally perfect, with hot days and warm starry nights that make outdoor performances a treat.
Coinciding with the Festival of the Arts is the even more exuberant and sometimes very strange Fringe Festival. Originally staged by street artists as a protest to the perceived elitism of the arts festival, the Fringe Festival is now a power in its own right, an annual event as of 2007, drawing thousands of visitors to the city for a month of experimental theater, jugglers, comedians, offbeat entertainers, and film festivals. If the Festival of the Arts gives Adelaide a taste of Manhattan, the Fringe Festival is more like New Orleans. Walk the cafe-lined streets on these summer evenings and you’re likely to see anything. While all this is going on, Adelaide also hosts Writers’ Week, during which well-known authors from Australia and overseas gather to discuss their works, launch books, and give readings. This event is free.
The annual World of Music, Arts, and Dance Festival in Adelaide—WOMADelaide—is also a big draw, last year attracting acts from 27 countries and half a million visitors. Another major music festival is the Barossa Music Festival, held each October in the Barossa Valley. The valley also hosts Barossa Under the Stars, in which international stars perform in an open-air concert near one of the big wineries. This annual festival usually takes place late in January or early in February. The Country Music Festival is celebrated each June in the town of Barmera (140 miles/225 km) northeast of Adelaide.
Gourmet festivals are another tradition in South Australia. Every August the Barossa Valley has a Classic Gourmet weekend: Visitors travel around the wineries sampling wines with dishes created by some of South Australia’s best restau-
rateurs. McLaren Vale, 20 miles (32 km) south of Adelaide, has a similar fete, the Continuous Picnic, held each May. Clare, 75 miles (120 km) north, hosts a Gourmet Weekend in May.