Sitting vividly atop the Woodford Folk Festival hillside looking over to the Glasshouse Mountains, the iconic WOODFORDIA sign has a colourful, and little-known history.
Visible from quite a distance, the sight of its five-metre high letters are to many Woodfordians the first indication that they are soon to arrive at one of Australia’s largest outdoor music and cultural gatherings.
The sign, designed and built by Woodford Folk Festival veteran Brian Rickards, and painted by a succession of talented artists over the years, is a favourite spot for a photo-op and a most cherished vantage for many a festivillian.
For some, it’s the first thing they see at the dawn of a New Year after thousands gather to watch the sunrise on the festival’s sixth and final day, January 1.
Like many ideas brought to life at Woodfordia, the idea for the hilltop sign was conceived after a social chat with festival director Bill Hauritz.
In the late 1990’s and well before the site became known as Woodfordia, Bill and Brian agreed that the festival needed an element to herald its identity.
Woodford Folk Festival Brian Rickard’s original sign plans. was Brian who had the ‘light bulb’ moment.
“How about a big sign like the Hollywood one but better?”, he remembers saying to Bill.
“I had to sharpen up my carpentry skills and learn to transfer computer fonts to graph paper so we could then upscale them onto ply.
“Then there was the engineering aspect and how to build the support structure – there’s no such thing as skyhooks!”
Original letters stood a little over two-metres and were supported by a rail and star pickets.
The sign was positioned on the hill behind the Greenhouse venue and the present Garland stage, and read ‘WOODFORD 2000’ in a carnival of bright colours.
When lit up at night, it appeared to float in the sky.
The year number was changed annually until 2003, when earthworks in the festival precinct forced a relocation and revamp of the sign.
“It was a move to the top of the hill and a big increase in the size of the project,” says Brian.
“There was a lot of heavy duty support timber work, a whole truckload of concrete to fill the post-holes, and lots of steel reinforcement.
“Each huge letter was made from several sheets of marine ply supported by a web of batten.
“The workshop was an old dairy shed.
“But the challenge was met.”
This incarnation of the sign stood high on the hilltop as an emblem of the festival for 12 years.
The upscaled sign simply read ‘WOODFORD’ – its new size left no room for the year let alone ‘Folk Festival’.
It wasn’t until 2009 when the name ‘Woodfordia’ was firmly established that Brian extended the sign’s support rail and the ‘IA’ were added.
In 2015, sporting obvious signs of wear, weather and decay, the Woodfordia sign was in need of a total refurbishment (one year corflute flowers were even used to cover the most weather damaged spots!).
Over a 10 week period, the old sign was taken down and Brian was back at the drawing board, printing, scaling, and building new letters that would return the sign to its former glory.
Marked, cut and painted by hand, the latest Woodfordia sign now shines blue and yellow hues over the 500-acre festival site – easily visible approaching the site on Woodrow Road and as far afield as the D’Aguilar Highway.
After a successful debut at the 2016/17 festival, this latest Woodfordia sign is now playing its part in making the 2017/18 Woodford Folk Festival complete – there’s even a great surprise in store this year!