Beginnings - the 1954 Apple blossom festival
The Apple & Grape Festival came to be in 1966, renamed from The Apple Blossom Festival, which itself was born from the Back to Stanthorpe Week celebrations of 1954. The event had run its course by the mid 1960′s and hence a superstar was born!
In 1965, the Apple Blossom Festival was not held due to insufficient public support. Representatives of the DSGC and Chamber of Commerce and Industry saw an opportunity for a new event, to be combined with the successful “Eat an Apple Week” campaign and a committee was formed under the leadership of Max McMahon to plan the event.
The success of the 1966 Apple Harvest Festival which included a Grand Ball, Street Procession, Athletics Carnival & Sports, tours of orchards, vineyards & packing sheds encouraged the committee to plan a biennial event.
Onwards… The Apple & Grape Harvest Festival
In the meantime, a new name the Apple & Grape Harvest Festival was adopted to include more of the fruits grown on the Granite Belt.
Events at the 1968 Apple & Grape Festival included the Miss Delicious Quest, grand ball and raceday, a ten-mile race from Amiens to Stanthorpe, and a Festival Art Show. Between 5000 and 6000 people crammed a quarter mile strip of Stanthorpe’s main street for the street carnival. Mr Gordon Chalk, Deputy Premier of Queensland, described the Festival’s success as indicative of the high appreciation of people for the district.
Stanthorpe’s 100th Year Celebrations… 1972
Stanthorpe turned on the party of the century to mark the towns’ 100th birthday in 1972.
Two hundred and twenty people in 21 subcommittees had worked and planned for 18 months to make the 1972 Apple and Grape Harvest Festival the undisputed highlight of Stanthorpe’s centenary year.
The results astounded and delighted everyone from the 60,000 visitors who crammed Stanthorpe’s main street to guests, including Premier Joh Bjelke Peterson, and even the organisers themselves!
The ambitious programme included a centenary concert, centenary ball, fruit competition, arts festival, sculpture competition, fence painting, historical displays, garden competition, centenary parade, National Lizard Racing Championships, tours of orchards and national parks, a tin dredge at Quart Pot Creek, fashion parades, apple packing championships, grape crushing championships, fireworks, sports, car rally, band concerts, a beard growing contest, race day and even a taxidermist display!
The grand parade of nearly 70 bands, floats and horse drawn vehicles took one and a quarter hours to pass through the main street.
“The main street rapidly filled with people until the time of the Grand Procession, when it was transformed into a living, colourful, good spirited and noisy sea of spectators”, wrote the Stanthorpe Border Post. Hundreds more festooned the Maryland Street buildings, leaning from windows and balancing on roofs, eager to secure favourable viewpoints for the duration of the parade.
So big were the crowds that the town ran out of milk and came dangerously close to running out of beer on the main Saturday.
The Fijian Deputy Police Commissioner, T. Hanford, who had traveled to the Festival with the Festival’s star attraction, the Royal Fijian Police Band, confessed that he originally harboured doubts that a town of 3,800 people could stage such a lavish carnival. However, the Festival proved all doubts unfounded, setting the standard against which following Festivals would be judged. Queensland Minister for Labour and Tourism, John Herbert, summed up the praise of visitors: “I’ve been to hundreds of festivals in my time but this is the best I’ve ever attended”.
The success of the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival gave a new impetus to the district’s tourism industry. The Shire Chairman, Cr Fred Rogers, called a public meeting to form a Tourist Association, commenting: “It would be a great pity not to follow up the work of the Festival organizers”.
(Historical information kindly supplied by the Stanthorpe Border Post)
Queensland Q150 Celebrations… 2009
As part of the Queensland Q150 celebrations in 2009, celebrating the State’s 150th birthday, the Stanthorpe Apple & Grape Harvest Festival was voted one of Queensland’s favourite iconic events.
To celebrate Q150, Queensland Museum Development Officers worked with regional museums around the state to develop displays capturing the history and importance of community festivals.
The Stanthorpe Museum display about the Apple & Grape Harvest Festival is featured on the Collecting Queensland Festivals site by the Queensland Museum.