Back to Stanthorpe

2016  -  Back to Stanthorpe

by Apple & Grape President Greg Thouard

It’s amazing, the number of people I have run into over the Christmas/New Year break and the number of Facebook posts and emails which mention we are coming “Back to Stanthorpe” for the festival.  If all this is an indication of who is coming it certainly looks like there will be a huge numbers attending a week of celebrations from 26 February through to the main weekend on March 5/6.  A huge crowd will be fitting reward for the 18 Directors, 8 Young Ambassadors and the big volunteer group who are planning and working so hard for the 50th Anniversary celebrations.

It was interesting hearing and seeing the Back to Stanthorpe comment.  It was actually this theme that started the festival movement way back in 1954.  Our forefathers recognising there is so much to promote in the local district from its unique seasons and wonderful climate, its national parks, the horticulture and agriculture, its people, their cultures and their friendliness.  In recognition of the many pioneering folk who had passed this way helping to build this great district that the nationwide invitation was sent out to come Back to Stanthorpe.  Such was the success that the Apple Blossom Carnival was born, running annually from 1955 to 1965.  This carnival grew so big and with much work required to put it on, it was decided to make it every two years but be bigger and better.  It proudly boasted attendance figures of 6,000 each festival

A milestone event was the 1972 festival. The centenary of Stanthorpe in that year made the foundations for an even bigger festival.  Seventy magnificent floats, twenty marching bands and hordes of carnival characters and street artists transformed the carnival area into a living, colourful and excited sea of spectators.  The Royal Fiji Police band travelled to Australia to lead the parade and 60,000 people packed the streets.  “Unbelievable” was a comment from the Shire Chairman Fred Rogers but even more unbelievable was the town ran out of milk and nearly ran of beer.

Cr Rogers called a public meeting following the festival to form a Tourist Association commenting that “it would be a pity not to follow up on the work of Festival organisers”.

Over the following fifty years, the festival committee of volunteers continued to approach each festival with the same enthusiasm and excitement as its forefathers and remaining as a main driver behind tourism to this area.  

To celebrate all these years of festivals, I would like to encourage everybody in the district to fill their homes with visiting families and friends in true “Back to Stanthorpe” style for the 2016 festival.  “In fact, don’t stop there, let’s make all of 2016 a Back to Stanthorpe year to celebrate the many event that this district proudly promotes”.

Image courtesy of The Border Post.