CHERRIES signal the festive time of year.
Although Christmas is just around the corner, first is the annual Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival.
While the rest of the world would look upon Western Australia in awe by being able to have such an event, for our State it marks a time to celebrate, perhaps even more so this year than any other - while being socially distant, of course.
On Saturday, December 12, the streets of Manjimup will become awash with bright, vibrant red.
Whether it was effective rules and regulations, a co-operative community and perhaps a bit of luck, WA has been rather fortunate during this pandemic.
As a result, life returned to a relative normal sooner than most of our fellow States.
That's what sparked the idea for this year's festival theme - emergence.
"I guess it's a celebration of our emergence from COVID-19," said festival chairwoman and co-ordinator Pam Bodsworth.
"Like all regional towns when COVID-19 was at its peak in WA, a lot of local businesses struggled but since intrastate borders opened up again, I think there have been more visitors to town than we would have in a normal year - which has been great to see.
"The community looks forward to the festival each year - it's one of our biggest events - but this year feels even more needed and wanted than ever."
This year's festival will be slightly different for several reasons, mostly due to COVID-19.
As such, attendees have been asked to register for the free event to assist for contact tracing if required.
But the most notable change is not due to the pandemic, which is a change to the Southern Forests Long Table experience to the now Cherry and White event.
The semi-formal event is based on the concept of guests wearing white and the cherry is provided.
It is inclusive by offering various options, depending on your preference and budget.
Tickets to the event are $45 per person, then all packages other than BYO are an additional cost.
- Bring your own (ticket price only of $45) - You can enjoy the ambience with limited expense by bringing your own white table, white chair/s, white tablecloth, napkins etc, glassware, table decor, white dinnerware, cutlery, food, drinks and esky for drinks.
- Take a seat is $60pp.
This package gives you a place at a table.
Cutlery, glassware, linen, dinnerware, table décor and seat are provided and attendees BYO food, drinks and esky.
- Taste of the Southern Forests gourmet hamper is $80pp.
The gourmet hamper consists of a savoury menu created by local chef, Crystal Flippen, which showcases the Southern Forests food bowl and a dessert box, exclusive for this event created by Nicole Leal from Nourish Flourish Inspire, Manjimup, which makes healthy handcrafted wholesome whole food treats.
Guests need to BYO table, chairs, dinnerware, table linen, table décor, cutlery, and drinks.
Recyclable cutlery can be provided.
- Deluxe gourmet hamper and seating package is priced at $140pp.
It includes a delicious taste of the Southern Forests gourmet hamper for one.
Attendees only need to BYO drinks.
The hampers are being curated by local businesswoman and festival partner Kim Starkie, who is also the Manjimup Farmers Market manager, which she said aided in her putting together the gourmet hampers.
"We are making an effort to use products that are local to the Southern Forests region," Ms Starkie said.
Attendees can expect to see in their hampers Pemberton strawberries and blueberries, Manjimup cherries, Omega walnuts, fruit and vegetables from PJ Produce and Bogoias Farms, NewLeaf Orchards cherry vinegar, dried fruit from Crazee Mumma and meats from Manjimup's Holysmoke such as smoked chicken, honey smoked ham, duck and chorizo.
Also included will be goodies from Northcliffe's Bookalaam Olive Oil, Manjimup Honey Company and Heritage Country Cheese from Nannup.
Hampers are one per person, with a cheese platter-style menu, salads and dessert, providing plenty of gourmet food to ensure guests won't go hungry.
Determined to source locally, Ms Starkie has even asked producers and suppliers to try experimenting, depending on what she requires.
She said one business is endeavouring to make crackers and growers have planted and are harvesting ahead of the season, such as the potatoes.
"I'm really looking to who we have in the region and what else they could make," Ms Starkie said.
"Farmers are going out of their way to get produce ready.
"It's all about not just having a basic catering list - we want to make it a unique experience and people get to keep the hampers so they can take home anything they don't use."
Ms Starkie said asking businesses to innovate with new products could potentially lead to diversification, value-adding or creating a new line not previously considered.
She expects to make 60-75 hampers for the event.
Other events and attractions for the festival include the grand parade, which is always a highlight event, with the WA Police Pipe Band attending.
Ms Bodsworth encouraged visitors to explore Manjimup and surrounding towns even further as she said businesses in the region tended to do something special to support the festival.
"Our region is so diverse - it's not just cherries that we're known for but also apples, avocados, strawberries, blueberries, marron, pears and vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage, as well as wineries," she said.
The event also showcases local talent and craft, with artisans set to have stalls to sell their products.
There will also be a fashion parade with local models strutting in the latest styles from Manjimup boutique, Southern Belle.
Attendees can enjoy cooking demonstrations, exhibitions and displays and entertainment for the whole family.
The Southern Forests Food Lane will have an array of delicious food choices.
For those wanting to delve even further into the festivities, there is the opportunity to tour three farms to see, learn about and taste some of the premium produce grown in the region.
Tickets for this half-day guided tour cost $92 and include a 'cauliflower rice and pasture raised egg experience', 'passionfruit experience' and 'cherry orchard experience', plus afternoon tea and light refreshments.
Previously Manjimup's Tall Timbers Brewing Co has held an after party on the Saturday night.
The brewery confirmed it will be organising something special for the festival but the plans are still being finalised.
Cherry Lane Fields, Manjimup, claims to be WA's largest cherry producer, with more than 12,000 cherry trees in about 20 different varieties.
Harvest for cherries begins in late November and finishes in mid January, aligning perfectly with the town's summer festival.
Cherry Lane Fields co-owner Kathy Grozotis said so far the season had been wetter than usual, which thankfully has not caused any issues.
"To date the current rains have not done harm to our cherries as they are still green ( in early November), they have been a help as we can put off irrigation," Ms Grozotis said.
As Cherry Lane Fields has well established markets for its product, the festival does not impact on the business, also because its main product is late season growing cherries (harvesting from around December 10), but the Grozotises look forward to it each year.
"My family and relatives come from Perth each year, it's great to have a day off and enjoy all the festival offers," Ms Grozotis said.
"It is a great event for the town and a tremendous economic boost."