The Big Chill Hitting Melbourne In July
Maybe it’s just me, but if I have enough money saved for a holiday, I’d much prefer to go somewhere sunny, where I can lie on the beach in ‘Mummy time-out’ with vodka, rather than be cold and wet as I lug the kids around snow-laden mountains (after spending a small fortune on puffy jackets and pants that they’ll wear once before growing out of, not to mention the chains for the car tyres, and severing off my own arm to pay for accommodation during peak snow season).
But then I feel torn – is heading to Queensland by default each year taking the lazy option? I don’t want to deprive my girls of the unique experience of a winter wonderland, especially here in Australia where snow and cold weather is relatively rare …
Enter Melbourne mother-of-two Anna Brown, who has brought to life The Big Freeze Festival, and solved the dilemma of parents across the state. Anna came up with the idea after pondering the fact there are so many families who simply can’t afford the time or money necessary to get to the Victorian snowfields, but who’d desperately love to build a snowman and throw a snowball with their kids.
Coming from the perspective of a parent – as opposed to a corporation focused solely on profit – Anna was able to use focus groups of school mums to workshop her ideas. She presented them with various options for on-site food vendors and asked them to vote on their favourites. She also insisted that the venue allow outside food to be brought in, to give families options, and was so determined to keep it family-friendly that she rejected one gelato vendor on the basis that he was going to charge $8 for an ice cream.
The Big Freeze Festival is aimed at toddlers, pre-schoolers and primary school children, and will run over nine days, from 2nd to 10th July (the second week of the next Victorian school holidays) at Cranbourne Racecourse. Opening hours are 9am to 5pm, but patrons must book in for their 30-minute snow pit session when purchasing tickets, so as to keep numbers even and capped in the snow pit.
To ensure a fabulously snowy experience that isn’t ruined by rain, the snow pit will be undercover in the betting ring area, complete with a little forest featuring a magical snowfall.
Anna’s guiding principles when organising the festival were based on the fact she wanted kids to be active, creative and using their imaginations, so there are nine different winter fun zones for families to explore, including; a giant inflatable snow globe that kids can climb inside, character meet and greets and performances, imaginative play areas, construction areas, ‘superhero training’, workshops, art and craft and of course the snow pit.
Anna has worked hard to value-add to the festival, with partner Phillip Island Nature Parks giving away a 4-park entry pass for children to their Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre, Churchill Island Heritage farm and the new virtual tour Antarctic Journey, with the purchase of each children’s ticket to The Big Freeze.
Attendees don’t require any special snow clothes, but Anna does advise to bring winter gear like jackets, gloves, scarves, and gumboots, as well as a change of clothes to keep them warm and dry once their frolicking is over.
As for predicting the success of the first festival, Anna is optimistic. “We couldn’t get the kids out of the snow on testing day!” she says. “Plus, my kids think this is a big party for them!” she laughs. “It was an idea that I couldn’t find a reason NOT to do, so I’m doing it!”
While The Big Freeze is no Mt Buller, it’s also not supposed to be – it’s designed to give families an entertaining snow experience they wouldn’t otherwise have had, and that’s nothing to sneeze at!