Ironfest is a medieval arts festival that includes arts stalls, music, street performances, blacksmith demonstrations, and historical re-enactments. The festival was founded by Macgregor Ross, a Lithgow artist and current festival director, in April 2000 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the steel industry, celebrating the connection between humanity and iron, steel, and other metals. The festival provides an opportunity for artists, designers/makers, blacksmiths, young performers, musicians, historical re-enactors, and machine enthusiasts from Australia and the world each year to contribute to an annual theme recognizing the cultural heritage and diversity in the Lithgow region.
The first event featured 25 artists at Lithgow’s Blast Furnace Park and included an exhibition of metal sculpture, paintings, and drawings, along with blacksmith demonstrations from Harry Piers and a performance by The Mullpigs. As a result of the growing popularity of the festival in recent years, it is now annually hosted at the Tony Luchetti Sports Ground.
The State Mine Museum and Blast Furnace Park, more space was required to accommodate more than 3000 performers, historical reenactors, metal artists, machines enthusiasts, steampunks, blacksmiths, belly dancers, and pro wrestlers with over 17000 tourists travelling to see Regional Australia’s funkiest and most unique cultural event.
Among the most popular annual events are the St. George’s Day Jousting Tournament and the Napoleonic Battle of Lithgow, 120 costumed participants wear authentic 19th-century garments taking to the arena as part of the infantry and cavalry in a battle featuring in rolling armoured tanks and explosives and artillery. Stall vendors selling everything from handmade balaclavas and Victorian gothic corsets to freshly forged candlesticks, armour, swords, and hatchets and much more. This is a fun, family-friendly event, which has a lot of historical significance for Lithgow despite some adult-themed exhibits, the kids can dress up and become part of the medieval experience. There are a variety of activities planned throughout the weekend for kids, including archery lessons and medieval chivalry classes, in which they use foam rubber swords and shields to duel.
The NSW government recognized Ironfest in 2007, as an event of state significance due to the overwhelming success and positive economic impact on the local region. The event has received numerous awards for culture, tourism, and business and is one not to miss.