1 May 2024

Knitters craft deliciously cozy apple beanies for Batlow's festival of cider

| Edwina Mason
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three women standing behind a collection of colourful beanies for Ciderfest

This year 750 bright apple beanies will be offered for sale at Batlow’s Ciderfest on Saturday 18 May. Photo: Van der Photography.

Chris Shoemark and Chris Horsley have a habit of walking daily around Batlow and it was during one of those rambles, back in 2021, they devised a plan to help get the bushfire-embattled town back on its feet.

Both in their 70s with a talent for turning wool into wearables, a craft they learned when they reached double digits (age 10), their first thought was knitting fire beanies.

“We then thought this may be a bit too depressing and given the work involved in creating a fire look we decided on apple beanies, given the link to apples grown in the region,” Chris Shoemark said.

With the goal of selling them at the town’s major annual celebration of everything apples – CiderFest – they got knitting and within two months they’d created 120 apple beanies, which sold out.

Upping the ante, they doubled volume for the 2022 CiderFest – and sold out.

In 2023, 380 hats were knitted by the pair and they too sold out.

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So, this year they’ve toppled their own record, churning out 750 bright apple beanies which will be up for the wearing at this year’s event, which takes place on Saturday 18 May.

Chris Shoemark says it took six months for the pair to complete this batch of apple beanies, which, individually, take around two and a half hours to complete.

She says it was a bit of a push.

“I do a bit here and there to do mine, but Chris Horsely will knit a beanie in one go,” she said.

“If we attempt this many again we might spread it over a longer period and recruit some helpers,” she said.

But they won’t be looking to their children, all skilled knitters who choose not to knit.

Chris Shoemark is the fourth generation of her family to reside in Batlow, and Chris Horsely is 45-years local. Both replicate that time-honoured pastime of knitting in front of the television.

They also find fellowship through knitting with other locals each Wednesday – initially knitting beanies for cancer and now also squares for Wrapped With Love blankets and poppies for Remembrance Day.

“It’s always a fun group and we catch up for two hours and knit,” Chris said.

“A couple of the ladies who come along will likely help us next year if we look to knit more than 750 beanies for CiderFest 2025,” she added.

Chris serves on the CiderFest committee, and says proceeds from beanie sales go towards festival events, but also cover the cost of the wool, which they have to order immediately.

“We need to get it at the beginning of winter or it sells out,” said Chris Shoemark.

Sizes range from 48 stitches, which will get you a small to medium apple beanie, to 56 stitches, which is a medium to large.

Chris says the small to medium will fit kids but the actual fit is dependent on head size, “and also how much hair you have”.

There are scores of reasons to head to Batlow for CiderFest, the popular beanies being just one, but the ciders are the centrepiece.

If you’ve never seen Batlow in autumn, what better excuse do you need to head up into the Snowy Valleys to sample some of the best boutique alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders from across the country, including those from the home of not one, but three ‘big’ apples, one of them actually half an apple.

The festival has been running annually since 2012, only missing 2020 due to COVID, and has seen a steady increase in attendees.

They come from near and far – the majority of visitors travelling from the nearby towns of Tumbarumba, Tumut and Adelong, and cities such as Wagga Wagga, Canberra and Wollongong.

That means up to 5000 people will stroll the streets, creating a bustling vibe of chatter with music, street theatre, roving performers, stalls overflowing with cider, local craft brews, the region’s renowned cold climate wines and gourmet foods.

This year many of the participating cideries including Batlow Brewing Co, The Apple Thief, Crafty Cider, Daylesford Cider, 3 Sons Cider, Darkes Cider, Cedar Creek Cider and Small Acres Cyder will also be hosting free information and tasting sessions in The Can, situated at Hides Park, as part of the festival.

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Hides Park now heralds an eight-metre wide, four-and-a-half-m high sound shell built to resemble a giant can – which pays tribute to the town’s former cannery Mountain Maid – which was completed in 2021.

On a whole other stage, being The Church Stage, headline act The Steve Edmonds Band will be belting out their high energy brand of funky blues, roots/rock alongside a plethora of other acts.

Given the popularity of CiderFest, accommodation in town is always tight but ticketed bus transportation is available from nearby Tumut and Tumbarumba so attendees can still stay in the beautiful Snowy Valleys region and enjoy a couple of ciders without having to worry about driving back to their accommodation.

Tickets are $30 plus a booking fee online or $30 at the gate. The event will run from 10 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday 18 May on Pioneer Street, Batlow.

Grab your tickets, bus tickets or book an RV site via batlowciderfest.com.au

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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