IT'S time to dust off your tweed, oil up your retro bikes and start growing some facial hair, as the Ballarat Heritage Festival returns next month, celebrating the city's heritage, landmarks and creative community.
Held over 10 days from May 20-May 29, the event in the heart of the Victorian Goldfields will showcase a program featuring interactive experiences unravelling stories from Ballarat's past.
Highlights include the Craft Lab, Ballarat Tweed Ride, steam train shuttles and the annual Beard & Stache Competition.
The latter is a riot of whiskers that celebrates facial hair in all its glory.
Categories last year included the full beard, the ultimate in hirsuteness; the Verdi, an impeccably groomed beard style; and the partial beard (goatees, flavour savers, chops, sideburns and more).
Nobody is left out. Just for fun, there is even a category where women and kids can don their best fake beards, with hilarious results.
The Tweed Ride is a bike ride where a group of cyclists dress in historic and vintage attire.
The tradition began in London in the '90s, with riders dressing in classic British winter attire and riding through the streets of he city.
Similar events are now held around all around the world - Ballarat included! And what a sight it is to behold.
The Craft Lab is celebration of knowledge passed down generations, reinterpreted and contemporised. It showcases the work of a selection of creatives from Ballarat and surrounding regions. Heritage trades, fine arts, traditional practices, cultural rituals, lost skills and contemporary practice will all be highlighted.
New to the program this year is a contemporary food experience highlight Ballarat's built and cultural heritage assets.
With ample accommodation to choose from, visitors are encouraged to extend their stay and discover more of Ballarat, including the city's vibrant food scene, award-winning attractions, galleries and vintage shops.
There will be some free and some ticketed events. To book, go to ballaratheritagefestival.com.au.
THERE are plenty of accommodation options in the Ballarat region but if you are after a unique stay, Jean-Claude Van-on-a-dam is a 1970s York caravan that has been lovingly restored and sits proudly next to a large dam.
There is also an amenities shack with a toilet and shower, plus a covered outdoor food preparation and wash-up area. You'll find a small bar fridge, an esky for your drinks and a barbeque for cooking.
The owners live on the property up the hill and are on hand if you need them, or you can enjoy complete privacy.
The caravan offers a king-size bed dressed in French linen. There's cosy seating inside for reading, a selection of games, plus air-conditioning and heating.
IN another development for the city, it has been announced Ballarat will soon be the site of the Australian Centre for Rare and Forgotten Trades.
The centre will aim to protect and pass on Australia's rare trades through hands-on workshops.
From jewellery making, fabric printing and typography, to leatherwork, carving and furniture making, visitors will have the opportunity to meet with rare trade artisans and take part in workshops ranging from 30 minutes to five days.
The centre will be located in the former gold museum at Sovereign Hill and will also incorporate maker's residencies and a retail outlet. It is expected to open in September.