Cave Gardens to become winter wonderland

A new major annual wintertime event that will take over South Australia this July will start in Mount Gambier, with the city’s Cave Gardens to be transformed as part of Illuminate Adelaide.

Supported by the SA Tourism Commission across the state and Mount Gambier City Council for the local event, Illuminate Adelaide begins in Mount Gambier on June 9 as part of a series of events across the state that will see iconic attractions lit up with installations, lasers and light projections.

SA Tourism Commission chief executive Rodney Harrex, who visited Mount Gambier this week, said the event would aim to attract locals and Victorian tourists – who accounted for 39% of visitors to SA pre-COVID-19 – and to boost the region’s visitor economy.

“We are really excited about this,” Mr Harrex said. “We think this is a great opportunity off the back of the new Qantas services as well and the great thing about a lighting event is that it gets people to stay overnight … we want to use this event to challenge people from Victoria to come over.”

Mr Harrex said a big goal of the event was to benefit local businesses with a new, night-time event, taking place during the untapped winter-time – a period that other events like the cult-status Dark Mofo in Tasmania have shown can be made to work.

According to feedback from regional tourism businesses, they are “bullish” heading into winter. When it comes to would-be guests of the event, Mr Harrex said they should not be deterred by the typically formidable chill of Mount Gambier’s colder months. “Put a coat on, put a jacket on. Enjoy it,” he said. “We want to say to people, you can still enjoy our great state outside of summer.

Winter is traditionally a slower period and we think that this is a great opportunity to directly address that.” The Digital Garden installation will run as a free event and as a prelude to Illuminate Adelaide’s flagship event in the heart of Adelaide, which kicks off on July 16 and runs to August 1.

Illuminate Adelaide will also come alongside the release of a winter hotel voucher program. Illuminate Adelaide co-founders and creative directors Rachael Azzopardi and Lee Cumberlidge said they were “delighted to be programming and presenting Digital Garden in Mount Gambier”.

“It is something very special for the South East region and has been specifically curated for the location,” the pair said. Events South Australia executive director Hitaf Rasheed said locally, Digital Garden will feature as one of three South Australian regional activations in Illuminate Adelaide’s program of events.

The event will see works from national and international artists on display, “with the aim of profiling Mount Gambier and this beautiful region”. “We’re really committed to showcasing regional South Australia, within Illuminate Adelaide,” Ms Rasheed said.

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