A festival where the family’s welcome

It’s been six consecutive years that I haven’t missed the White Mountain Festival. From the very first year this small but fabulous festival grew on my heart like a woolly moss you might find growing in the mountainous area.

Originally started in 2006 as an alternative for the more sedate Splashy Fen fans, and organised by the same group, C-Weed Productions, White Mountain, situated at White Mountain Lodge just outside Estcourt, was intended to cater for families and folk fans.

Word spread almost immediately after the first festival and soon it was attracting a healthy crowd of around 2000 music-lovers, which is about as big as it will get. I couldn’t help but compare my latest visit to my recent trek to Oppikoppi. Though White Mountain may involve music and camping, it couldn’t be further removed from its’ northern counterpart.

For one thing, you can replace the hard, red dust with green verdant pastures and picturesque mountains. The setting is truly stunning. You get a feeling of peace as soon as you drive into the main camping area, which is equipped with basic ablution facilities – also unlike Oppikoppi. (If you’re lucky you may even score a hot shower!)

With a single main stage where the majority of the action takes place, the pace is leisurely. There’s no need to rush around to see your favourites. It’s best to grab you gear and get comfy in front of the stage for the day.

Around you you’ll find people napping, sipping on cold Craft beer from Notties Brewery or coffee to keep off the mountain chill. You’ll see toddlers shaking their nappied tushes to the tunes. You’ll see old friends laughing in camping chairs and new friends being made around the bonfire. The food selection isn’t huge but what’s there is hearty – homemade potjikos, delicious shwarmas, vegetarian curry, pizza and giant burgers!

This year’s line-up was varied, running the gauntlet from quiet female folk artists like Janie Bay to full scale gypsy-ska fun with the Nomadik Orchestra. A new addition to the festival this year was an open-mic slot that ran on the main stage between 10.30am and 1.30pm. It was great to be entertained throughout the day and surprising to see a wide variety of talent from young and old.

After the last bands have packed up for the night, the action heads to Tom’s Tavern – a delightful old stone pub situated on the lodge side of the property. This is where the real fun starts!

The stage is a bit of a free for all, where you might see local favourites jamming with newbies at 3am. The drink flows and the atmosphere is warm and inviting despite the outside chill!

Being in the Drakensberg, you have to be prepared for all seasons. In one day you may see two thunderstorms and get a sunburn. It’s best to make sure your tent is well secured too. One year our tent was flattened by a howling South Easterly.

For myself and my friends, White Mountain Festival is a holiday – a magical escape where you can mingle with old friends and make new ones. It’s a place where you can party with your granny and not look lame. It’s a place where kids can be kids and frolick in the dust in wear fairy wings if they want to. It’s a festival you should definitely try out when you get the chance.

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