Each February, Evandale, a small, historic town in Tasmania’s north, comes alive with the sights and sounds of yesteryear. A lady in a straw sun-hat plays honky-tonk on an antique piano, accompanied by a washboard player. A couple stroll down the street in their turn-of-the-century Sunday-best. A bearded gentleman wearing breeches sits astride a penny farthing and you’d best get out of his way!
Visiting the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships is a must if you are in Tasmania in mid-February. The penny farthing is a bicycle that looks like a penny attached to a farthing, hence its name. These bikes are historic, rare and are very difficult to ride. They are also very difficult to stop so be mindful of where you walk.
Watching people ride penny farthings might not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, but I promise that you’ll enjoy the day! The skill of the riders is phenomenal, particularly the children! Your “must watch” list includes the slow race, which rewards the slowest rider… a mean feat on a penny farthing! The obstacle course, which has riders run to their bikes, carry them (some over their heads!), push them and finally ride them, is a sight to behold. Most importantly, barrack for Tasmania! This year, we won the penny farthing relay, despite stiff competition from mainland states. For a good laugh, listen carefully to the commentator, who paid out just about everyone, in his own delightfully jovial way. The day goes from 10am to 4pm.
Aside from the penny farthing races, there are other events at the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships. My favourites are the period costume parade and a charity race event involving a sprint leg, a (regular) bicycle leg and a wheelbarrow push! This year, the team from Hawthorn Football Club won but the other teams weren’t far behind!
The Evandale Fair provides plenty of entertainment, food and market-stalls away from the track. You’ll find penny farthing souvenirs, handmade wares (including dog treats), Tasmanian goods (this year, there was a stall of lovely thick merino socks!) and plenty of local food vans. There’s a plethora of entertainment for the kids, including a jumping castle and face painting. One of my favourite things to do is to sit and listen to the country music band and watch the locals dancing and singing along (I may have been singing too!).
Evandale itself is a picturesque town and has some must-see buildings (such as the water tower) and must-visit stores (look out for the historic cash register). If you’re feeling peckish, the Ingelside Bakery Cafe has a beautiful rose-filled courtyard area and tasty food, including gluten and dairy free options. For art lovers, local galleries house excellent artworks year-round. The prestigious Glover Prize art exhibition is also held in Falls Park pavilion on the March long weekend each year.
Evandale is about a 20 minute drive from Launceston (2 minutes from Launceston Airport). Parking is easy if you arrive at 10am but becomes increasingly difficult throughout the day. My tip is to arrive on time as there are not-to-be-missed events that take place early on in the day (such as the slow race). If you need to arrive later in the day, you’ll have to walk quite a distance from your car to the main entrance (the start of Logan Road, opposite Solomon Cottage).
This year, the cost was $12 per adult for entry to the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships and children were free. This is money well spent, in my opinion! You should also bring some cash with you for food, market goodies and to tip the buskers. If you’ve forgotten to do this beforehand, there is an ATM at 5 Russel Street.
If you didn’t make it to the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships today, don’t worry! You can see the penny farthings on the road tomorrow (Sunday) as they race 20 miles from Evandale towards Perth and then back through Evandale to Clarendon Homestead. And if you’re reading this post too late even for the 20 mile race, there’s always next year! Put it in your diary.