By Lauren Ferrone
Fleurieu Peninsula’s Kate Cooper dreams of the day she’ll pick up her phone to hear Beyonce excitedly say, ‘Hey, I want to play at Handpicked!’
“Or even a call from Taylor Swift would be cool,” laughs Kate, founder and organiser of Langhorne Creek’s Handpicked Festival, which “brings together food, wine and music all in the one space”.
They may not be ‘Queen B’, but the 24-year-old has already had a number of big acts perform at past Handpicked festivals.
From Jessica Mabouy, Thirsty Merc to Birds of Tokyo, the number of A-list artists venturing to the region as a result of Kate’s hard work hasn’t always been easy during the festival’s first three years.
“It’s probably the hardest thing to organise, but whenever we approach these big names in the music industry, we push our point of difference being that we’re a family,” she says.
“A lot of festivals around the world are owned by big American companies, so we’re really family focused and the style of our event is different to most,” Kate adds.
ARIA award-winning bands, The Veronicas and Killing Heidi, have just been announced as major acts at November’s Handpicked Festival, with many more other artists to be announced in coming months.
A comment from Michael Chugg, who Kate describes as one of the biggest and “hardest to impress” promoters in Australia, is one which has “stuck” with her.
“In the first year of Handpicked, Michael said we were ‘bringing back old school festivals’,” she says.
“We’re bringing back the original festival, where kids parents and even grandparents are able to attend.”
Handpicked Festival is hosted at Kate’s family winery, Lake Breeze Wines.
“It’s nice to not only showcase our winery, but also put the entire region on the map at the same time,” she says.
In the early days, the family started by hosting weddings and smaller events.
“We’ve been sitting on this beautiful property for 120 years. We started small and then thought ‘what can we do to make a big bang and get a ‘wow’ factor down here in Lake Breeze?'” she says.
Making a big impact is the festival’s introduction of Big Tent city, which gives festival-goers the opportunity to camp out at the winery.
“I like to call it A-grade camping,” Kate laughs. “There’s not really any other accommodation in the region, so I think this will be a popular option,” she adds.
There will also be a tasting trail where eight local businesses, including Fleurieu Milk Company and a chocolatier, will showcase their produce.
As for the name, Kate says it wasn’t quite as easy to pick.
“A good friend of mine in Sydney told me to read a magazine from the industry and circle words that I liked the sound of,” she says.
“So, there I was there, reading a wine article that read ‘we handpick our fruits’… and it’s never worked so perfectly. We handpick our artists, food trucks, and everything.”
While’s Kate future festival goals include continuing to secure big celebrity musicians, there’s a more humble reason behind the hard work she has put in over the years.
“It’s for Lake Breeze and the Langhorne Creek region. I hope people throughout Australia come to know this town – not just for its wine, but its community spirit… I couldn’t be any luckier and more grateful for their support,” she says.
Handpicked Festival 2016 is on Saturday, November 12. Tickets available to the public this Saturday (September 3). Check out the Handpicked Festival Facebook page for more details.
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