And the festivals never fizzle
Chances are if you’re in Ballarat today you’ll be rugging up and heading out to the Potato Festival, which kicks off a month of winter celebrations. In Bathurst, too, you may be strapping on ice skates for the start of the Winter Festival. In Ballina the Food and Wine Festival will be calling. And that’s just places starting in “Ba…”. Up in Winton, it’s the final night of The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival. Even in the dead of winter the nation can’t get enough of festivals.
The origin of public feasting lies in religious observances, harvests and great victories. In Australia, we like to pay homage to Elvis (Parkes), ABBA (Trundle), trees dressed up in jumpers (Warwick), street machines (Canberra), beanies (Alice Springs), scarecrows, oysters, prawns, the full range of produce, kites, lights and a very dark side of Hobart. Then there’s music, movies, manuscripts and all sports, including jousting.
Our burst of enthusiasm for big community festivities, it seems, can be traced to the happy crowds who turned out in 1954 to greet Queen Elizabeth on her Coronation Tour (although Toowoomba’s splendid Carnival of Flowers dates to 1949). First of the “new wave” was Moomba (“Let’s get together and have fun”, but go online to discover more earthy translations of the word) in Melbourne in 1955, originally accused of being a plot by capitalist shopkeepers to hijack the Labour Day holiday.
Sydney came to the party the following year with the Waratah Festival in honour of the NSW floral emblem, and Brisbane launched “fun in the sun” at Warana in 1961. These were all floats, marching bands and beauty contest affairs that have mostly morphed into higherbrow festivals. Perth was the forerunner of the “cultural” trend with its International Arts Festival, born in 1953, and the Adelaide Festival of Arts has reigned supreme since 1960.
I love being out and about at a festival, people-watching as much as anything, and have recently been to Vivid Sydney and the Narooma Oyster Festival. I was at another oyster festival (not Narooma’s) a few years ago when supply of the molluscs ran out before the arrival of the special guest, a dignitary from a sister city in Japan. I’m not sure what the substitute offering was; maybe “Hey, mate, fancy a battered sav?”
From festival street stalls I have a kitchen cupboard full of pickles and jams, all turned out in jars with red and white gingham bonnets neatly tied with gold ribbon. I try valiantly to keep them in chronological order. But I’ve given up searching through racks of old LPs (the snap, crackle and pop of vinyl doesn’t hold romantic appeal, besides which I have all the copies of The King and I that I need) and the Bakelite collection didn’t really take off. Homemade soaps smell delicious but often simply don’t lather. Does this usher in a post-shopping phase of life?
Never suffer from Fear Of Missing Out in relation to festivals (and did I mention Darwin has a whole month of them starting next week?). They’ll be back next year and just occasionally we all need a fun-time detox. Stretch out, relax and maybe listen to your Woodstock album.
Susan Kurosawa is on leave.