27 November 2023

Three-day festival to celebrate the sweet fruits of nation's cherry capital

| Edwina Mason
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Man dressed as a cherry leads a parade down the main street of Young.

Pip the Cherry is always a highlight of the time-honoured street parade, a must-watch on the program of the upcoming 2023 National Cherry Festival at Young. Photo: National Cherry Festival/Facebook.

The Hilltops town of Young is anything but dull at this time of year as the cherry-tinged lips of locals celebrate their annual harvest in an explosion of colour, excitement and tingling tastebuds at their National Cherry Festival.

A mere two-hour drive from Wagga, Young is not just any town, it’s the Cherry Capital of Australia, a title that rose with the first trees planted here in 1847 and one the locals wear with immense pride.

The annual National Cherry Festival, held on the first weekend of December, is the pinnacle harvest event that not only nods to the town’s local cherries, but the bounty of a region that, right now, is reaping the efforts of a year’s worth of farming efforts.

A town built on land that once grazed sheep – the celebrations pay homage to the region’s agricultural history and the resilient souls who call the Hilltops home.

That you will see – as you head out this way – in the heavily-laden trucks that pass you by as the grain of the region makes its way to market, harvesters working day and night to reap those crops and kilometres of undulating landscape peppered with paddocks of grazing livestock.

Just as the golden fields transform into a vast flourish of green trees you’ll see signage pointing in every direction to rustic roadside stalls brimming with plump sweet fruit including cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots, alongside a delicious selection of pies and pastries, wines, olives and honey.

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The Hilltops region draws people from all over the ACT, NSW, Victoria, and places far beyond, and its annual Cherry Festival promises not just a good time, but unforgettable moments you’ll be talking about for years to come.

Celebrated over three days from 1 to 3 December, the people of this fine district open their arms to welcome kindred spirits from every corner of Australia and the world beyond as the streets and surrounds hum with excitement, bursts of colour, sounds of music and the taste of fresh local produce.

It’s a time when the important questions are asked: Will the record for the longest pip spit be shattered this year? Who’s stepping up to claim the title of the 2023 Cherry Pie Eating Champion? And who will reign supreme in the ages-old annual Cherry Ambassador competition?

Events kick off at 5 pm on Friday 1 December in the town’s beautiful Anderson Park – named for our heroic VC winner – where you can sing your heart out, groove to the beats of live music and be awestruck by the dazzling fireworks.

a family walking through a cherry orchard with buckets

The “pick your own” experience is one of the most popular activities on Young’s annual cherry festival program. Photo: National Cherry Festival/Facebook.

Saturday you’ll find the air filled with laughter, the scent of baking cherry pies, and the joyous chatter of folks sharing stories and experiences as visitors and locals shop for unique finds, listen to buskers on street corners, wander fabulous displays, visit bustling markets and settle in for the time-honoured street parade – maybe with a glimpse of Pip the Cherry!

As you prepare to venture into the heart of Young, let your curiosity guide you. There are stories waiting to be shared, local produce ready to be savoured and a festival ready to be celebrated.

Young and the Hilltops region is home to top-tier gourmet butchers, award-winning coffee and wines, local honey, jams, sauces and relishes and all sorts of other delicious treats – not to mention (but let’s) – a treasure trove of homewares to spark your creativity.

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You can delve into the town’s rich history and take on the heritage walks that offer a glimpse into the past. Marvel at the architecture of our churches, banks, and official buildings, each telling its own story of days gone by.

Out here you can venture further afield, arm yourself with a bucket and enjoy the freshest cherries picked straight from the trees of the many orchards surrounding the town.

Or, if ‘do it yourself’ is not for you, then enjoy the freshly picked fruit available at the many roadside stalls.

And after all the action of Saturday, don’t even think about hitting the snooze button or you will miss the Big Breakfast on Sunday morning in Anderson Park. Share laughter and stories with the charismatic bush poets and witness the talent of the working kelpies.

Oh, and parking woes? They’re a thing of the past, with a continuous courtesy bus looping between the showground, caravan park and old town library.

Whether you’re a long-time friend of Young or a curious traveller, the countdown to the action is on.

The National Cherry Festival runs from 1-3 December. The full program can be viewed here.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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