I arrived way too early to Canberra’s birthday. I got there at 10 in the morning. I was that guest who arrives early to a party and sits around awkwardly while you keep setting up.
It was a beautiful morning and I had fun watching the many volunteers running around assembling things at high speeds. People started pouring in at about 11 and the atmosphere was cheery. As the lakeside became more and more packed I saw people giving way to each other, and moving aside for families on bikes. I saw people stop and take photos for strangers so Dad could be in the picture too. I saw all sorts of great little bits of community spirit and I wandered around with a big smile on my face that was reflected in the faces of thousands of others. In fact, despite being surrounded by thousands of people all day I only came across one jerk. A guy who decided it was fine to chuck his litter into the lake as he walked by.
This is what the back of him looks like:
The entertainment kicked off at 12 with the RMC Band who were a thousand times funkier than a group of people in drab olive uniforms should be. Almost immediately after they started playing swing dancers materialised at the front of the stage, which is something I’m seeing more and more of at gigs these days. I like it. Good job Canberra.
I was distracted from watching the bands by the happenings on the hill next to Commonwealth Ave. There were doors there. Doors you could write on, doors that took you to a red carpet, doors that made you feel like you were growing bigger. All kinds of doors.
The best door was this one:
Billed as “THE BEST THING” Cocoloco’s shed gave no other clues as to what was inside. People were blindfolded and sent in. They would emerge after a few minutes refusing to speak of what had happened to them. The queue was full of terrified people nervously trying to guess what they were lining up for. I joined the queue. I refuse to speak of what happened in there, suffice it to say it certainly was a thing and it was the best one of those I had ever come across.
The Cocoloco shed was actually the highlight of my day, but I can’t tell you more without ruining it. If you ever see this at another event go experience it. It’s a thing.
The day was just about as perfect as we could have hoped for. It was gloriously bright, marvelously warm, and had a wonderful cool breeze. Shade became a valuable resource very quickly. As did the sunscreen provided by the Cancer Council.
After lunch many people had abandoned the activities and entertainment planned for them and started making their own fun. I saw many a game of wonky asymmetrical footy played on the hill, and kids managed to run and climb on everything they weren’t supposed to. Stage 88 became a makeshift playpen, it was pretty adorable.
The day wasn’t without its faults. There were a woeful lack of places to buy food. Massive queues quickly formed in the hot midday sun for the few vendors around the place. ATMs were also in short supply. The program suggested heading to Questacon for an ATM, but considering the majority of events were taking place on the other side of the lake this wasn’t ideal. Also confusing was the complete lack of events on stage 88. I wandered up there at 3 to check out the roving performers in the area and found thousands of people camped out waiting for entertainment to start. A few people approached me when they saw the program in my hands and asked if I could tell them what was happening. I overheard many a conversation wondering the same thing. Perhaps it’s peoples own fault for making assumptions, but there could have been more done to let the public know to keep walking towards the lake.
Still these issues are small and on the whole I’d say Canberra’s 100th birthday was a big success.
It was bright and inclusive and varied and colourful and weird and artsy and friendly and just a little bit dorky.