Week­end of fam­ily fun lies ahead

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Louise Shan­non

WHEN Cy­clone Deb­bie struck the coast on March 28, Whit­sun­day Reef Fes­ti­val chair­woman Margie Mur­phy al­most gave up hope for the 17th run­ning of the an­nual event.

But to­day, against all odds, the four-day event will go ahead, at­tract­ing more than 5000 peo­ple to the Whit­sun­days, boost­ing tourism and en­sur­ing im­me­di­ate eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

Back in March, with so many busi­nesses de­stroyed, Ms Mur­phy said she thought the fes­ti­val’s spon­sor­ship op­tions had been wiped out.

But just a few weeks af­ter the cy­clone, Craig Tat­nell, the owner of Townsville-based Above Ground Zero Fire­works (AGZF), called her and said, “Margie, the show must go on”.

Mr Tat­nell of­fered to pro­vide the Fri­day night fire­works for the fes­ti­val free of charge – and Ms Mur­phy said when she told the fes­ti­val com­mit­tee of 12, the de­ci­sion was swiftly made to forge ahead with plans for the full com­mu­nity event.

“It gave us the in­spi­ra­tion and con­fi­dence to be able to put on a fes­ti­val,” she said.

“We thought it was so im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity to cel­e­brate and show ev­ery­one that Air­lie Beach is op­er­at­ing and ready to party.

“And once the spon­sor­ship drive started, we were very sur­prised and heart­ened by the great re­sponse from lo­cals.”

Ms Mur­phy said the com­mit­tee, sup­ported by a team of 30 vol­un­teers, be­gan ap­proach­ing artists and per­form­ers who all of­fered “dis­counted cy­clone rates” to sup­port the strug­gling re­gion.

Some of their great­est achieve­ments in­cluded se­cur­ing Fri­day and Satur­day head­line acts King

So­cial and the Pot­belleez.

With coun­cil event ap­pli­ca­tions fi­nalised, artists booked, flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion re­served, the lo­gis­tics of road clo­sures put in place, and equip­ment sup­pli­ers and con­trac­tors lined up, the fes­ti­val the Whit­sun­day com­mu­nity knows and loves fi­nally be­gan to take shape.

Ms Mur­phy said com­mit­tee mem­bers

We thought it was so im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity to cel­e­brate. — Margie Mur­phy

es­sen­tially worked an­other full-time job, while all main­tain­ing their own full-time jobs, to guar­an­tee the cel­e­bra­tion could go ahead.

Pop­u­lar fes­ti­val events from pre­vi­ous years will fea­ture again this year, in­clud­ing the Fri­day night fire­works and Satur­day Street Pa­rade, and there will also be new events in­clud­ing the Mantra Magic Mile run­ning races.

Adding to the fun will be car­ni­val rides, food stalls, pop-up bars, the Tel­stra Fam­ily Fun Day, vin­tage cars, joy flights, big bands, mar­kets and even ‘Flick­er­fest’.

Ms Mur­phy said ac­com­mo­da­tion in town was nearly, if not com­pletely booked out, and or­gan­is­ers were hop­ing for as many lo­cals as pos­si­ble to come and show their sup­port.

For more on this story and your full Whit­sun­day Reef Fes­ti­val guide, visit whit­sun­day­times.com.au.

PHOTO: AN­DREW PATTINSON / VAMPP

Air­lie Beach will come alive with the events of the Whit­sun­day Reef Fes­ti­val this week­end.

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