Weekend of family fun lies ahead
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.
Airlie Beach will come alive with the events of the Whitsunday Reef Festival this weekend.