Overcast skies and cold dismal weather did not deter the public from celebrating Narrandera’s free-ranging koalas at the inaugural Koala Festival on Saturday.
The indoor/outdoor event was held at the Narrandera Showground with families arriving en mass to participate in the festivities, all of which were free, courtesy of a NSW Government grant.
Almost 1000 festival-goers attended the event.
The festival opened at 10.30am with a surprise Master of ceremonies, Australian Champion Town Crier Judy Campbell of Tongala.
Attired in the Guild’s colourful formal costume the town crier called everyone to attention at the Pioneer Hall stage and introduced Narrandera Mayor Neville Kschenka to a round of applause.
Close to 1000 attend inaugural koala festival
Springing the surprise the Mayor said talented town crier Judy Campbell was recently named 2022 National Town Crier at the Australian Championship on the Central Coast held under the Authority of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Australian Town Criers.
“Today we welcome representatives of environmental groups who are sharing their knowledge – National Parks and Wildlife Service, Narrandera Shire Koala Regeneration Advisory Committee, Narrandera Landcare, Murrumbidgee Landcare, Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists, local members of Wires and Charles Sturt University, ”Cr Kschenka said.
“I also welcome my fellow Councillors, Wiradjuri Elder Michael Lyons and other elders who may be present and local indigenous dancers Dinawans Connection.”
Cr Kschenka said the reason for the event was to celebrate and raise awareness of Narrandera’s treasured koala colony through koala-themed celebration that not only educates, but creates great memories.
“ I would like to thank the NSW Government’s Reconnecting Regional NSW Government’s Events Program which funded today’s festivities and I would like to congratulate our organisers, Council’s events and visitor services team of Brenda Hartmire, Sam Cuthbert-Moore, Kimberley Beattie and Debbie McLean, and the Koala Regeneration Advisory Committee, ”Cr Kschenka said.
“All your contributions have been rewarded with this impressive set-up. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say let’s get in and have some koality fun!”
The Mayor said apologies were received from Federal Member for Farrer Susan Ley, Federal Minster for the Environment Tanya Plibersek, Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke and NSW Minister for the Environment James Griffin who were unable to attend.
The outdoor amusements were a big hit with young festivalgoers and included a giant slide, jumping castles , kids teacup rides and a giant chairoplane.
Inside , Pioneer Hall stage was abuzz with interactive kids’ shows, Krazy koala puppets and other entertainment performed against a backdrop of lively music.
Food and market stalls did a brisk trade while Koala and nature photography exhibitions and information stalls about koalas and other wildlife displayed on the hall verandah attracted interest with young and old.
Well known Narrandera field naturalist Betty Bradney had many takers for her kite-making workshop and the koala art and craft kids tent provided by the Fusion Youth Team was popular with youngsters.
Cameras clicked non-stop when the Dinawans Connection Indigenous Dancers performed on a circle of sand outside the Storytime Tent where Uncle Mick told dreamtime stories.
Koala Habitat Tours to Rocky Waterholes provided by guides from the Narrandera Koala Regeneration Advisory Committee were fully booked. Driver of the tour bus Geoff Bock said the bus held 24 people.
The first few tours were full and the rest were close to full but the rain which fell in the afternoon did not dampen his passengers enthusiasm.
Mr Bock said when he arrived back at the showground in the rain towards the end of the tours, the festivalgoers who had booked a seat were eagerly waiting to hop aboard.
The festival closed on a high note at 9pm with the Tin Rattlers Bush Dance.
Cr Kschenka was delighted with the public response to the festival, calling the event a great success.
The Council issued 890 tickets to booked activities. It is thought the total number of festival patrons could be higher because a number of people who saw the activities walked in to the venue from the event parking area or from the road.
Organisers hope the public appeal may see the festival become a permanent fixture on the Shire’s events calendar.
This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 22 September 2022.