19 February 2019

Thousands experience sights, sounds and smells of Multicultural Festival

| Lachlan Roberts
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The dragon performers were a hit with kids. Photos: George Tsotsos and Jack Mohr.

The heart of Canberra was a cornucopia of sounds, sights and smells at the National Multicultural Festival, as organisers and police were left happy with crowd behaviour and the success of the 23rd annual event.

Music, aromas, and food took over Canberra city, as attendees feasted on local delicacies and were enthralled by entertainment from around the world. Over 200,000 people flocked to this year’s event to sample food from more than 300 stalls and to witness singing and dancing across the multiple performance areas.

From a Tongan traditional watermelon drink called Otai to Lebanese bread filled with mince, and Indian chickpea curry served with rice and cucumber yoghurt raita, festival-goers were spoilt for food choice.

Along with your usual suspects of German kranskies, Peruvian street food and Korean barbecue, there were plenty of stalls to keep the strong crowd satisfied.

Azra Khan, the director of the Festival, said traffic management and the multiple stages of entertainment were her personal highlights.

“We were all very pleased that it all wound up nicely with no major incidents and people remained safe, which is the most important thing,” she said.

“We were very happy with crowd behaviour. All the feedback we received from people walking around was that people felt very comfortable and people were well behaved. People were friendly, people were happy and there was genuinely good behaviour all around.

“Overall, people did notice the changes that we had made and acknowledged it was again very spacious and there was plenty of space to move around in.”

The event also saw 150 acts from around the globe take to six different stages across the weekend, with performances from India, China, Greece, Africa, the Pacific, African gospel choir, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Ms Khan said organisers received strong feedback from attendees who enjoyed the variety of entertainment.

“We wanted to lift our game in the entertainment space. We are dealing with community and professional acts intermixed, so we were able to get the balance right and people noticed,” she said.

The event only had a minor hiccup after a fire performer was transported to the Canberra Hospital on Saturday afternoon, suffering burns to the throat. The man was involved in a Polynesian dance act before calamity struck but returned to the event later that night.

While no members of the public were injured in the incident, organisers stopped all fire entertainment acts for the rest of the weekend.

ACT Policing said they were pleased with the crowd behaviour at the Multicultural Festival across the three days of the event.

Only four attendees were given exclusion directions due to their level of intoxication on Saturday evening, while one intoxicated male was arrested on Sunday for possessing a knife in a public place.

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