1989 The Taste of Tasmania Festival first held in Hobart

The Taste festival became Taste of Tasmania and is now the Taste of Summer. Image: Taste of Tasmania Facebook

The Taste of Tasmania Festival was originally part of the Hobart Summer Festival, which ran from December 27 until the end of January. The seven-day Taste festival was held on the Hobart Waterfront. It began after Christmas and ran through until after New Year, with the River Derwent and Hobart’s historic wharves and Salamanca precinct providing the backdrop. In 2022 it was renamed the Taste of Summer Festival.

The Taste festival has, in the past, claimed to be the longest-running food and wine festival in Australia. However, the Barossa Vintage Festival, started in 1947 as a local event, takes the honours. Although it began primarily as a wine festival one assumes, given the unique heritage of the area, a certain amount of food was involved.

Among capital cities though, the Hobart festival was the pioneer, supported by the city council and ideally timed to take advantage of the hoopla surrounding the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and New Year’s Eve celebrations on the waterfront. The event is free to enter except on New Year’s Eve.

Following Tasmania’s example, many other capital cities and regional towns introduced their own food festivals in the early 1990s. Orange F.O.O.D Week, started in 1991, claims to be Australia’s longest-running food festival, discounting the Hobart and  Barossa claims.

The future of the Taste of Tasmania festival was cast into doubt in May 2021 when the Hobart Council voted to cease its ownership. Under the longstanding model, the festival was funded by the city’s ratepayers and the council was responsible for its organisation – a resource-intensive operation. Following the festival’s cancellation in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic, the Council decided not to proceed with the 2021/22 event and to seek a new model that saw the Taste festival under new ownership.

Fortunately, that quest was successful. Renamed the Taste of Summer, the festival did take place in 2021/22, run by a private consortium, Pinpoint, described on the festival’s Facebook page as “a group of local people with experience and skill in… tourism, hospitality and event management”. The new model involved a significant financial contribution from the State Government and a reduced in-kind contribution from the Hobart City Council.

The Taste of Summer festival continues to showcase Tasmanian produce.

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