This is a guest post by Maxine Fisher, Digital Content Coordinator (and PANDORA Archive curator) at the State Library of Queensland.
Queensland has a great variety of festivals. Some commemorate significant events from the past or celebrate a unique aspect of a locality; or the produce or culture of a region. Others are based around sports, arts or music events. Whatever their focus, our state’s festivals encompass a huge range of exciting activities. The reason we capture their web presence for the future is that most festivals are more than just entertainment. Festivals bring people with shared values together. They engender community spirit and reveal something of our Australian identity through public gatherings. They are in essence expressions of our culture. It’s particularly important to archive the websites of festivals in regional and county areas as they can hold significant information and images, and a website is a resource that is readily collectable, no matter where the festival is held. Archiving these sites is one important way of helping record the contemporary values and the collective memory of a place or region, and in a state as large as Queensland, there’s a diversity of peoples, industries and interests. Festivals can also evolve over time or may cease. For example, Queensland once had a Tobacco Festival, complete with Tobacco Festival Queen. In this post I'm highlighting just a couple of our unique and interesting festivals so you can gain a sense of life and celebration in regional Queensland. Chinchilla Melon Festival Chinchilla, 300km west of Brisbane, is Australia’s ‘Melon Capital’ and grows a quarter of all Australian melons. The Melon Festival began in 1994 as a way of lifting community spirits during a long drought. The festival is now biennial and celebrates pride in the local produce and the resilience of the community. Festival events include melon tossing, melon bungee, pip-spitting, and the big melon competition. In 2007, the winning big melon weighed a whopping 87kg! One festival highlight is melon skiing – participants place their feet inside watermelons, and are towed along a plastic surface covered in crushed melons and detergent. Squishy but awesome fun, this festival draws huge numbers of people from Australia and overseas.
'Melon skiing' at the Chinchilla Melon Festival. Image supplied courtesy of Western Downs Regional Council.
Tree of Knowledge Festival What originally began as a May Day parade for the town of Barcaldine, 1070km from Brisbane, has now expanded into a weekend of celebrations commemorating the town’s significance in Australia’s social and political history. Barcaldine bore witness to one of Australia’s earliest industrial disputes when in 1891 it became the centre for striking shearers who reportedly gathered in the shade of a large eucalyptus by the railway station. Events around the time were pivotal in the birth of the Australian labour movement and flowing from that, the Australian Labor Party. The tree was added to the National Heritage Register in 2005, but the following year when the tree was noticed to be deteriorating it was found to have been poisoned. Festival activities include rugby league for juniors and seniors, May Day march, combined church service, horse racing and goat races. One highlight is the Barcy Revfest: automotive muscle goes on show in the Saturday night street cruise, then the following day the pedals are put to the metal in eighth-mile drag races.
Screen shot of the 2013 Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge Festival website. From the PANDORA Archive.
This is just a brief glimpse into our state’s diverse regional festivals. You can discover more of how Queensland celebrates in PANDORA