Goulburn’s Lilac City Festival on the brink of closure until volunteers stepped forward earlier this year, spluttered back to life on the weekend showing just why it remains the nation’s longest continuously running festival.
Families showed their support for the longstanding community festival over the weekend, enjoying the carnival atmosphere, markets and music in the City’s central meeting ground, Belmore Park.
Enthusiasm was detectable in the festival atmosphere, whether from the hardworking volunteers who’d laboured hard to guarantee the event wouldn’t die out, or the families – mums and dads and kids – simply enjoying the activities on offer.
Underneath the surface, a community vibe percolated promising that, perhaps, the festival would not only go on but would grow.
Minister for Family and Community Services and Member for Goulburn Pru Goward opened the 2018 Lilac City Festival acknowledging the work of longtime organisers Heather Landow and former Goulburn Mayor Tony Lamarra, despite the loss of festival stalwart [the late] Yvonne Neale earlier this year.
“The Lilac City Festival is Australia’s longest continuously running community festival. I’d like to thank the committee for their hard work. And while the drought has done little to recommend our landscape, we do have beautiful weather today.”
Goulburn Mulwaree Deputy Mayor Peter Walker also congratulated the committee for ensuring the 2018 festival went ahead.
“The Lilac City Festival is not dying off and the enthusiasm we see today will make it go past its 67th year, and push it on to bigger and better times,” he said.
Councillor Walker announced the Lilac City Festival Achiever of the Year, journalist and longtime supporter of Goulburn’s Rocky Hill Musical Theatre Company Chris Gordon.
“I love Goulburn and the Lilac City Festival,” he said, accepting the award. “I didn’t have any idea I was getting this; I’m very proud to receive it. Goulburn is the place where I want my achievements to be. I’m honoured to receive this award.”
There was a hint of yesteryear when Mr Lamarra took to the podium to present the Lilac City Festival 2018 Baby of the Year; he’s been involved in much of the history of the festival during its 67 years.
“Every time a baby is born in Goulburn, it makes our community grow,” he said. “And it looks like we will return the festival to old times.”
He was more than happy to step forward to help stage the festival in 2018 when he realised it might ‘perish’ and urged the Goulburn Mulwaree Council to come on board for the festival in 2019.
“Because the Lilac City Festival helps make Goulburn a better place, and it attracts visitors. I’d like to give the 2018 committee a pat on the back. These are lovely, community-minded people.”
He said 2019 would be a bigger and better festival, and he acknowledged the last few years had been tough going for festival organisers.
“It is thanks to Heather and [the late] Yvonne Neale that the festival is still running and I’d like to say thank you.”
In a nostalgic tribute, the 2011 Lilac City Festival Queen, Letitia Cavanagh, crowned the Festival Princess Charlotte Ohlback and Prince Kylan Hadlow.
The opening ceremony finished with the Lilac City Festival Garden competition; always a fixture of past festivals and highlighting that even in drought, gardens grow with commitment and hard work.
“It has been a dreadful year for gardens but you realise how much work goes into keeping gardens alive in drought. A garden is not so much good luck but the hard work you put into it, and you’re making something for others to enjoy,” competition judge Audrey Tabner said.
A little bit like the Lilac City Festival…with hard work and community commitment, it will thrive again.
For festival co-ordinator and stalwart Heather Landow, 2018 was a critical year in the event’s history, but one that augurs well for the future.
“It’s been a great weekend. The weather has been kind to us. We had a busy day on Saturday and an absolutely fun day [on Sunday] for the Children’s Day, and they really loved it,” she said.
“I’m confident the festival will go on and, in 2019, we will bring back some of the older festival activities and events, as well as some new ones.”