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A day at the 2015 National Multicultural Festival

By Sophia Carlini - 16 February 2015 13

Every year I mark the National Multicultural Festival in my calendar, making sure I make no other social plans. Canberra’s Multicultural Festival sees most of the Canberra City streets blocked off and lined with stall after stall of food, drinks and information of every nationality you can think of; from Poland to Italy, Macedonia and Jordan, just to name a few. You can take a trip around the world and eat until you need to unbutton your jeans (I wore stretchy pants) without even leaving Canberra.

The festival runs from Friday through to Sunday, and this year we decided to spend Valentine’s day (Saturday) at the festival with some friends. We headed into the city at about 12:30pm, it was raining and I have to admit I was not very excited about walking around in the rain, but once we reached the festival I forgot all about it and without even realising the rain soon stooped.

The upside was that the festival wasn’t as busy as other years due to the weather. In previous years I remember being able to hardly move through the crowds whilst sweating like crazy in 30-something degree heat. The rain did stop though and the crowds soon grew.

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We spent two hours at the festival and stopped at so many stalls, indulging in sweet fairy floss,

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delicious Macedonian kebabs,

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interesting Serbian sweets, amazing Italian cannoli, tasty Turkish gozleme,

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fruity alcoholic beverages, fresh lemonade, out of this world pork belly and sweet potato burgers from Mr. Papa – the list goes on.

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In between food stops we watched many talented performers. There were guys playing bagpipes, indigenous dancers, belly dancers, street performers, not to mention these cuties in traditional Macedonian dress getting ready for their performance.

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I felt as though this year was the best National Multicultural Festival yet, it was a great vibe, the stall holders were way more organized than in previous years, the festival itself had a better stall layout, and everyone was really in a festive spirit representing their countries and causes, as many were there raising money for charities, with such passion.

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a better Valentine’s date, the festival was the perfect way to spend the day, and I wasn’t the only one who thought that spending a day gorging on food with the one you love was a fabulous idea; there were hundreds of couples and hundreds of girls with red roses.

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I was even lucky enough to end up with a beautiful red rose of my own.I am already looking forward to next years Multicultural Festival.

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What’s Your opinion?


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13 Responses to
A day at the 2015 National Multicultural Festival
Ash85 2:52 pm 19 Feb 15

I have, like Sophia, always marked the Multicultural Festival in my calendar as the “not to be missed” event of the year. Though what I think needs to be mentioned is that the popularity and the size of the event has now outgrown the location. Eight years ago, what use to be a wonderful aspect to the festival was the participation that could occur from the crowd… chairs to sit on, space to dance and enjoy the performances and space to move between the wonderful stalls and food on offer.

The event is a great success story of the National Capital, which has inspired others that have followed, such as Enlighten and the surrounding wine festivals etc. What I would love to see is perhaps for the location to change to Commonwealth Park (location for Floriade) so that there is more room for visitors to move around, rather than feeling like a sardine in a can. The Multicultural Festival has still retained its original essence, but unfortunately, I can no longer spend more than an hour at the event, where as years gone by it would be an all day fun fair!!! Commonwealth Park would still offer reasonable transport and car parking that is accessible from the city.

In saying that… what a great event – food and drinks were fantastic… sadly could not access or see the entertainment (which for me is the real winner).

rubaiyat 2:40 pm 19 Feb 15

Thoroughly agree.

The Multi-cultural festival has to be the best thing on the Canberra calendar and just shows how much Canberra has grown up. Even though what constitutes a nation’s food seems to be very blurry to say the least.

The venue is fine, let’s not move it out of the city into the Gardens.

Canberra needs more crowded life, not less. Look forward to the day trams push their way through crowds in Garema Place.

farnarkler 9:20 pm 16 Feb 15

What disappointed me the most was the lack of Belgian food. For those of you who’ve been to Belgium you’ll know what I mean. For those who haven’t, you’re missing some amazing food. I’m sure a small serve of moules-frites or beef carbonnade or waterzooi chicken would go down a treat, washed down with a Leffe, Hoegaarden (a round of applause if you know how to pronounce it correctly) or perhaps a fruit or trappist beer. Oh and the waffles and chocolate. They could’ve had a big chocolate fountain too. Hmmm perhaps next year.

Kalliste 8:50 pm 16 Feb 15

PCB said :

Alexandra Craig said :

The last few times I’ve been to the festival the hot weather has really ruined it for me so when it was raining this weekend I was stoked!

The only problem is, it was still super busy I found it hard to work out what stall was what – not every stall had a giant sign on it. I tried to download the map but couldn’t get any signal on my phone (presumably signal was jammed because of all the people in one place)

I made the same observation to my partner re chips on a stick. Amazing isn’t it.

I reckon the Multicultural Festival should be held where Floriade is held. More room to move and there’d be way more airflow without all the buildings.

Lol. Food and wine frolic anyone?

Does that still exist? I remember, many years ago, my family would take their annual trek down to the alcoholic frolic. Dad would get dropped off in the morning to find the best spot, trailing his homemade trolley with esky and cases of beer behind him.

Ending it all with the much painful ice fight and then stumbling over the bridge and to the cab rank with all the other drunks.

And then they fenced it off, charged people for overpriced food and wine and we didn’t go back. I assume that probably was the intent though.

Long story short, I agree that it would be better in Commonwealth Park… for one I wouldn’t have had to walk from Constitution Ave to Marcus Clarke street to catch the bus and two, I could have gone into the city as I wanted to but decided against because of the masses of people that were there.

PCB 1:50 pm 16 Feb 15

Alexandra Craig said :

The last few times I’ve been to the festival the hot weather has really ruined it for me so when it was raining this weekend I was stoked!

The only problem is, it was still super busy I found it hard to work out what stall was what – not every stall had a giant sign on it. I tried to download the map but couldn’t get any signal on my phone (presumably signal was jammed because of all the people in one place)

I made the same observation to my partner re chips on a stick. Amazing isn’t it.

I reckon the Multicultural Festival should be held where Floriade is held. More room to move and there’d be way more airflow without all the buildings.

Lol. Food and wine frolic anyone?

Alexandra Craig 1:23 pm 16 Feb 15

The last few times I’ve been to the festival the hot weather has really ruined it for me so when it was raining this weekend I was stoked!

The only problem is, it was still super busy I found it hard to work out what stall was what – not every stall had a giant sign on it. I tried to download the map but couldn’t get any signal on my phone (presumably signal was jammed because of all the people in one place)

I made the same observation to my partner re chips on a stick. Amazing isn’t it.

I reckon the Multicultural Festival should be held where Floriade is held. More room to move and there’d be way more airflow without all the buildings.

neanderthalsis 12:12 pm 16 Feb 15

Milly Withers said :

It still blows my mind that every year the longest queue is for the chips on a stick. They’re overpriced, taste the same as normal chips and are the sort of food (and flavour) that you can get anywhere! Us Canberrans are a bizarre lot.

I think it is a sad indictment on the good folk of Canberra that the Chips on a Stick vans had the longest lines. Really, with plenty of options for different and interesting foods, why eat chips…

Crowds seemed down on last year, but perhaps the weather can be blamed. Also caught the free park and ride bus in, much better than parking in some far flung corner of civic and hiking 5 miles to the centre of town.

Milly Withers 12:06 pm 16 Feb 15

dungfungus said :

Milly Withers said :

Are you seriously suggesting that “hundreds of thousands” were there on Saturday afternoon?
That is at least more than half the population of Canberra.
About 50,000 is more like it.

No, Dungfungus, I meant hundreds of thousands over the whole weekend, which is what organisers were expecting.

dungfungus 11:58 am 16 Feb 15

Milly Withers said :

Great photos Sophia. I went along on Sunday afternoon and while it was packed, it definitely seemed like they had managed the crowds and placement of stalls better than in previous years. When hundreds of thousands of people descend on a small place, crowds are unavoidable though, so no use complaining.

Like FHW, I also thought it was good that more stallholders were offering cheaper, smaller serves so that you could sample lots of different foods instead of filling up on a whole plate of cuisine from one seller. The $1 beef momos from the Tibetan stall were the best thing I ate at the festival.

It still blows my mind that every year the longest queue is for the chips on a stick. They’re overpriced, taste the same as normal chips and are the sort of food (and flavour) that you can get anywhere! Us Canberrans are a bizarre lot.

Are you seriously suggesting that “hundreds of thousands” were there on Saturday afternoon?
That is at least more than half the population of Canberra.
About 50,000 is more like it.

Milly Withers 11:01 am 16 Feb 15

Great photos Sophia. I went along on Sunday afternoon and while it was packed, it definitely seemed like they had managed the crowds and placement of stalls better than in previous years. When hundreds of thousands of people descend on a small place, crowds are unavoidable though, so no use complaining.

Like FHW, I also thought it was good that more stallholders were offering cheaper, smaller serves so that you could sample lots of different foods instead of filling up on a whole plate of cuisine from one seller. The $1 beef momos from the Tibetan stall were the best thing I ate at the festival.

It still blows my mind that every year the longest queue is for the chips on a stick. They’re overpriced, taste the same as normal chips and are the sort of food (and flavour) that you can get anywhere! Us Canberrans are a bizarre lot.

Genie 10:52 am 16 Feb 15

Since I had to transfer buses on Friday night, I thought I’d head out amongst the tents and grab some dinner.

I was highly disappointed only about 1/3 of the tents were set up to serve food. From memory Friday night is usually as good of a food haven as it is battling the larger crowds on a Saturday.

After I walked past what seemed like the 10th stall selling gozleme, I came across Mr Papas sweet potato and pork belly sandwich. Can I just say how disappointed I was. I LOVE pork belly, but after standing in a tiny queue and after 10 mins no one was served unless you wanted drinks, I moved on to see what else was on offer. I found more gozleme. Bleh !

As I circled back around I attempted to get a pork belly roll again – no luck and I gave up and bought the pork belly roll from next door. Yummy pork, but that’s all I got. A slab of belly on a bread roll. 🙁

My next tough decision was whether to buy a waffle on a stick, churros or pretzels. Pretzels won out and they were delicious.

All in all while I love the mutlicultural festival, the crowds make it too painful. So much is crammed into tiny little spaces and the queues for each stall make it impossible to manoever around.

Bring on the Night Noodle Markets.

FHW 10:05 am 16 Feb 15

I agree with Sophia’s comment that this year was the best ever. The cooler weather certainly helped, but there were a few things that added to the atmosphere:
– more stall holders seemed to be offering smaller/cheaper portions of food, so you could sample multiple cuisines, not just have one plateful of one cuisine and go home
– the entertainment was more varied and there was heaps of it
– there were many other groups that contributed to the atmosphere of diversity and acceptance.

All in all, this year was a real celebration of multiculture and pluralism in Australia, and I thank the organisers and all of the stallholders.

montana 9:51 am 16 Feb 15

not sure about this year, but for the past 3 years ive tried to keep clear of this event.

1. too hot
2. too crowded
3. overpriced food

its just not fun

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