Festival of favourites
by Laura Doguet
14th April 2015
THE much-anticipated Warrandyte Festival has come and gone for another year. The sun shone, the arts were embraced and our royal monarchs Cherry and Joff Manders rode a pair of curious camels down Yarra Street. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Warrandytians gathered in their thousands to enjoy the weekend that trumps most out east. The atmosphere was buzzing and it was smiles all round as the spirit of the festival took hold.
The festivities began with Battle of the Bands on the Friday evening. All bands were talented – their stage presence was electric and the extent to which they banged their heads was admirable. AMIKO were lucky enough to take out the title this year, scoring a two-day recording contract in a professional studio.
The iconic parade down Yarra Street was a treat for everyone as always. Special guests including Cr Paul McLeish, the mayor of Manningham, and Cr Ken King, representing the mayor of Nillumbik, enjoyed prime viewing from the community centre balcony. Warrandyte’s veteran MP, Ryan Smith, was there to catch all the action too.
Our King and Queen were dressed to impress in their regal attire, yet still somehow managing to climb atop their chosen camels. Fortunately, their royal steeds were not spooked by the fire trucks or bagpipes and our monarchs rode forth safely … despite our Queen’s “Kingsley” looking a little frazzled in the early stages.
Of course, all of Warrandyte’s favourite community groups and services, sporting clubs and schools also took part in the parade with gusto. Well-known businesses Warrandyte Community Bank and Quinton’s IGA were in full festival spirit, as well as the Warrandyte Theatre Group standing out in their vibrant costumes.
The 2015 theme Smart Arts became increasingly apparent as many little artists from Warrandyte Primary and Anderson’s Creek emerged. Equipped with their berets, palettes or own artistic creations, these kids were clearly ready for the big weekend ahead.
It’s hard not to appreciate the cuteness of the local tots of Warrandyte’s kindergartens and preschools. Crowded into the back of their trucks turned floats, nothing was going to stop them from waving enthusiastically to their families.
Warrandyte Neighbourhood House also embraced this year’s theme through the acknowledgment and celebration of Deborah Halpern’s newly installed sculpture. Calling themselves the Community Queen’s of Shire, the ladies walked forward with much grace and style.
Once again, Peter Norman drove his blue 1954 Fordson Major. Peter and his tractor represent the Diary year after year and always do us proud.
As the parade concluded, it was time for everyone to head down to Stiggants Reserve to engage in more festival fun. The trickiest part was trying to figure out where to go and what to do first!
Given the theme, art was certainly abundant within the festival grounds. The unmissable ‘Fat Ladies’ and their companions the ‘Skinny Men’ were back once more, continuing to draw many admirers.
For curious young minds, ‘Smart Arts Central’ was undoubtedly the place to be. The workshop space was transformed from a circus show to a ukulele studio, to a drama theatre and more. The amount of audience participation and level of enthusiasm within the crowd was infectious.
There was no shortage of artsy activities and events within the reserve. Many stalls presented opportunities for the kids to make or engage with something creative, such as paint a communal blank canvas while waiting for your turn to ride a camel, or colour a plaster model to keep as a souvenir.
Keen young readers’ needs were met as a beautiful tree adjacent the main stage had picture books and colourful pom poms hanging from the branches. It looked majestic and the novelty of it made it very inviting. Somehow, reading a book hanging from a tree becomes so much more satisfying than reading one ordinarily.
Other community stalls also embraced the festival’s smart arts theme. The Warrandyte Uniting Church offered simple but effective plate decorating fun, while the Yarra Warra Kinder gave the option to do some cool bush-style threading.
A unique jewellery store ‘Name on a grain’ also sparked interest and suited the festival theme. With precision, the stall managers would write a name or word on a tiny grain of rice and encapsulate it within a small transparent pendant. The dainty result made for a wonderful gift.
For that matter, gift opportunities were everywhere: from soaps that look good enough to eat to home made terrariums and potted cacti.
While the kids were easily entertained, adults at the festival were also well catered for with food, drink and entertainment. It also offers a chance to catch up with fellow Warrandytians and others.
Festival-goers were once again spoilt for choice when it came to food. The event embraced multiculturalism as reflected in the available food options. Take your pick from Polish dumplings, Italian-style woodfire pizza, French crepes, Dutch poffertjes, authentic Indian curry, or maybe the classic Slovenian kransky in bread from the Warrandyte RSL.
Twistos, Korean-style twisted potatoes (those intriguing fried twists on a stick), were another popular option, and one of those novelties you almost feel obliged to eat in the spirit of the festival – similar in that way to the CFA’s famous hot jam donuts!
Once you made your all-important food choice, the time came to pick a stage and performer to listen and/or boogie to. The music scene was outstanding this year with a lot of talent across both stages and days.
The riverbank stage featured a diverse range of performers, from the lovable one-man-band Uptown Brown to cool indie rock band Pinball Machine. Great sound and enthusiasm all round.
The main stage of course gave all the local schools a chance to shine, but it was later in the evening when the party really started.
Melbourne-based band Jakubi got everyone up and dancing with their unique mix of hip-hop, reggae, soul and synthesised rhythms. Their energy was contagious and created a positive vibe.
After their performance, the band posted on their Facebook page (which has close to 20,000 likes) that there was ‘somethin’ crazy in the air last night [at the] Warrandyte Festival.’ Along with a video of Stiggants Reserve going wild, the guys also wrote: ‘Thank you so much to everyone that came out and destroyed that poor grass with us. So much love!!!’ Cue all the young girls’ hearts to skip a beat!
A new acoustic tent also found its place at the festival this year. The performers Dan, Tom and Ruby sung stripped back covers of songs as well as original material. Their music was a delight.
Warrandyte High School’s dog show and pet parade was a hit as always with no shortage of cute pups under the big red top. Much to the amusement of the audience, many pets got distracted when attempting to perform their best trick. But Claire Bloom was always sure to console owners and pets with an encouraging “good try”.
Simultaneously, the tension was building over at the annual billy cart derby. This year saw various well-designed vehicles, including a new type of cart, the reverse three-wheeler. As competitors were narrowed down, the onlooking crowd continued their enthusiastic support – in particular, the always-loud ‘CherryBomb’ cheer squad, who made sure everyone knew who they were rooting for.
While there were a few close calls, everything ran smoothly and there were no major collisions. St John’s Ambulance Service, in conjunction with the trusty mulch pile, stood by regardless to ensure the safety of all drivers.
If you have an interest in our town’s past, hopefully you were able to make it to John Hanson’s historical gold mine tour. John’s vast knowledge about our town’s founding gold miners was fascinating as always, and after a number years the tour remains popular among Warrandytians and visitors alike.
When it comes to wacky Warrandyte traditions, the iconic annual duck race is right up there. The tension was building on the riverbank as onlookers counted down from 10 to the release of the decorated ducks. Three, two, one… and the race was on! Tension subsides as the ducks float slowly downstream. Duck owners follow their progression from the riverbank, hoping their ducks took out the title.
Other market and community service stalls also made their annual appearance.
The CFA had a strong presence as usual, offering food, drink and information about the continued need for fire safety coming into the winter months. Many took the challenge of squirting the fire hose in an attempt to hit the target, or hugging it out with the life-size smoke detector.
Furthermore, what would the Warrandyte Festival be without the Eltham Steam and Stationary Engine Preservation Society? Or Woodcraft Manningham? Or the Scouts’ Giant Waterslide? These are the golden treasures that you look forward to seeing each year. Their presence evokes feeling of nostalgia for many.
As the festival drew to a close, we returned home tired and foot-sore but with fond memories of the weekend that was.
It is important to acknowledge all the hard work and preparation that went towards bringing the festival to life. A big thankyou and well done to the wonderful festival committee, the emergency service teams and everyone else who graciously volunteered their time. Once again, they coordinated another fantastic event. Your efforts do not go unnoticed!
Until next year…