Festival beats the odds

Jasmin Dewey and Isabelle Dewey-Kamps at the Gladstone Harbour Festival.

By Matthew Pearce

It faced challenges on several different fronts, but the Gladstone Harbour Festival still managed to be a big success over the Easter long weekend.

Gladstone Festivals and Events president Raymond Lewis said the response to this year’s festival had been ‘excellent’ considering the weather and the impact of Covid.

“With how much upheaval there has been within the world regarding Covid and the restrictions around it, I think we did very well,” he said.

“There was also the weather as well, according to the bureau we were supposed to be getting some reasonably decent rain, possibly on that late Saturday or definitely Sunday, which would have certainly interrupted festival proceedings.

“Fortunately we achieved four days with very little rain.

“Certainly the crowd numbers were good considering all aspects in relation to Covid, as well as the weather that was supposed to be heading our way over the Easter weekend.”

Last week it was uncertain if the Harbour Festival would go ahead at all after after a man with Covid-19 travelled from Brisbane to Gladstone between March 25 and March 27.

Ultimately there was no spread reported in the community, but the scare, as well as the three-day lockdown in Brisbane, meant it was a close call for the festival and other events like the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race and Rockhampton’s Rockynats.

Mr Lewis said while organisers weren’t able to hold the full version of the festival he believed attendees enjoyed what they had on offer over the four days.

“We weren’t able to proceed with a number of our normal events, for example, the Teddy Bears Picnic, raft race and street parade,” he said.

“Those things we couldn’t achieve this year because we were operating under a Covid 1 category plan from Queensland Health.

“But overall it was an excellent festival, even if Mother Nature certainly played her part, especially for our region.”

Mr Lewis said the number of attendees had been constant over the four days, and there was also a good turn-out at the WICET Marina Markets.

“We held the markets on Good Friday and Saturday and certainly the numbers weren’t as high as they were in previous years, but again that was due to Covid and some stallholders weren’t able to make it due to requirements,” he said.

With a successful 2021 festival under their belt, organisers are now looking ahead to next year’s event.

“It was right at the start of the pandemic last year when we had to cancel the festival 2020 completely,” Mr Lewis said.

“We were hoping the pandemic wouldn’t last as long as it has, but it’s Mother Nature and you just have to accept what she’s throwing at you at the time and try to adapt as best you can to make sure you have a successful event and certainly a Covid-safe event,” he said.

“This year we asked for anybody who had any lose change to help support next year’s festival, which is our 60th, and we were certainly delighted by the amount of people that were able to donate some loose change to help us put on a bigger and better festival for 2022.

“We’re hoping that if Mother Nature allows us and Covid gives us a bit more flexibility next year we’ll be back better than ever.”

Check out more photos from the Gladstone Harbour Festival on page 25.