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Goulburn’s iconic Lilac Festival making a triumphant return

Maryann Weston 27 September 2019

The iconic Lilac Festival street parade will include a float, which organisers hope will encourage small businesses to enter floats in future festivals. Photos: Supplied.

Reigniting an iconic past and forging a future for Australia’s longest continuously run community festival are among the aims of a revitalised organising committee, busily planning for the 2019 Lilac City Festival. The festival will be held in Goulburn over the October long weekend.

The committee has worked tirelessly to breathe new life into what was a flagging community event. One of the biggest announcements for the 2019 festival has been the return of the Lilac Festival street parade.

Region Media sat down with two committee members, President and Goulburn Mulwaree Councillor Carol James, and Secretary Jennie Gordon. What we discovered was the kind of ‘vibe’ and ‘spirit’ that will make for a feel-good and inclusive festival for Goulburn that pays tribute to a rich heritage, while capitalising on new events such as the lighting up of heritage buildings in lilac.

“We are trying to get back to the values of the beginnings of the Lilac City Festival in Goulburn,” committee President Carol James said.

“We have a Lilac Queen entrant, who is very outgoing and is promoting the festival, as well as the idea of having a festival queen for future years. We have our parade on Sunday to take us back to yesteryear, and we are actually building a lilac float to go into the procession. We believe if we start small, in future years local businesses will be inspired to enter floats.

“We will also hold the Lilac Ball where the Lilac Queen will lead off with the Lilac Waltz. Yes, there is a Lilac Waltz, which was developed in the 1950s. There will also be a free dance event at the Veolia Arena in Goulburn on Sunday morning between 10 am-12 noon.”

Hard at work. Lilac City Festival committee President Carol James and Secretary Jennie Gordon. Photo: Supplied.

One hundred and twenty tickets have been sold for the ball and interest has spread far afield. Visitors from interstate are invited make it a full weekend of the festival and camp at the Veolia Arena grounds. Along with the regular festival events, the Joyland Carnival, the garden competition and open gardens, the pet parade run by the RSPCA, markets and food stalls, there’ll also be a memorabilia display and accompanying Devonshire tea, and the Goulburn Community 5 km Bike Ride.

Taking inspiration from the Vivid Sydney festival, the committee is working with the Goulburn Mulwaree Council, the clubs and churches, as well as local businesses to light up various buildings, including the Big Merino, in lilac.

“We want to be inclusive and involve the whole of the community,” Carol said. “Among the buildings set to be turned lilac are Rocky Hill War Memorial and the smaller memorials on the outskirts of town, the Goulburn Courthouse, the cathedral, the Workers Club, the Soldiers Club, and a whole lot of local businesses. Businesses can order the light machines from Carol James Real Estate office or by emailing us, ” Carol said.

And what of the actual lilac trees which grew prolifically in residents’ gardens last century? Community organisation Growing Abilities has been propagating lilac plants which will be on sale during the festival. A special lilac garden will also be opened in Howard Park in honour of one of Goulburn’s most iconic Lilac Queens, Palasa Salvi who was the festival queen in 1953.

“Lilacs are part of the history of the festival. They were originally brought from England and were planted along the railway line here. When people arrived by train they were greeted by the perfume of the lilacs. In 1951 the Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce president came up with the idea for the festival as a way of getting visitors to stay in Goulburn rather than leave on the train,” Carol said.

The future vision is to replant lilacs at various places across Goulburn, committee Secretary Jennie Gordon said.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council has been supportive of the festival and has donated $8,000 of in-kind assistance to this year’s event.

“They’ve been really good and very fair and that support will grow as they see how the committee runs the festival in a transparent, accountable and responsible way,” Carol said.

Entertainment over the weekend hasn’t been forgotten. The Goulburn Club will be hosting a performance of US acoustic guitarist Richard Gilewitz and singer/songwriter Chalkie White will be performing at the Southern Railway hotel.

For further information on ordering light machines, the Lilac Ball, entering the Lilac Festival Parade and other inquiries, email goulburnlilaccityfestival2580@gmail.com.

Festival patron and former Goulburn Mayor Tony Lamarra and his wife Adriana at the 2018 festival. As a longstanding patron, Tony will be leading this year’s street parade.


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