Cloudy skies and cold, gloomy weather didn’t stop the public from celebrating Narrandera’s free-roaming koalas at Saturday’s first koala festival.
The indoor and outdoor event took place at the Narrandera Showground and families turned out en masse to take part in the celebrations, all of which were free thanks to a grant from the NSW Government.
Almost 1000 festival-goers attended the event.
The festival opened at 10:30am with a surprise emcee, Australian town crier Judy Campbell from Tongala.
The town crier, dressed in the colorful, formal attire of the Guild, called everyone on the Pioneer Hall stage to their attention and introduced Narrandera Mayor Neville Kschenka to a round of applause.
Almost 1000 visitors take part in the first Koala Festival
To his surprise, the mayor said talented town crier Judy Campbell was recently named National Town Crier 2022 at Australia’s Central Coast Championship, held under the authority of the Ancient and Honorable Guild of Australian Town Criers.
“Today we welcome representatives from environmental groups to share 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,” said Cr Kschenka .
“I also greet my fellow councillors, Wiradjuri Elder Michael Lyons and other elders who may be present, as well as the local indigenous dancers Dinawans Connection.”
Cr Kschenka said the reason for the event is to celebrate Narrandera’s cherished koala colony and raise awareness through a koala-themed celebration that not only educates but also creates great memories.
“I would like to thank the NSW Government’s Reconnecting Regional NSW Government’s Events Program for sponsoring today’s celebrations and I would like to thank our organisers, the Council’s Events and Visitors Services team, Brenda Hartmire, Sam Cuthbert-Moore, Kimberley Beattie and Debbie McLean , congratulate the Koala Regeneration Advisory Committee,” said Cr Kschenka.
“All your contributions have been rewarded with this impressive setup. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say let’s hop in and have some fun with the koality!”
The Mayor said Federal Member for Farrer Susan Ley, Federal Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek, Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke and NSW Environment Minister James Griffin received apologies who could not attend.
The outdoor fun was a big hit with young festivalgoers and included a giant slide, bouncy castles, teacup rides for children and a giant swing carousel.
Inside, the Pioneer Hall stage came alive with interactive children’s shows, Krazy koala puppets and other entertainment performed to a background of lively music.
Food and market stalls traded briskly, while koala and nature photography exhibits and information stands about koalas and other wildlife on the indoor porch sparked the interest of young and old alike.
Betty Bradney, the well-known Narrandera field naturalist, had a lot of interest in her kite-making workshop, and the Fusion Youth Team’s kids’ koala arts and crafts tent was popular with youngsters.
Cameras clicked non-stop as the Dinawans Connection Indigenous Dancers performed on a sand circle in front of the Storytime Tent where Uncle Mick shared Dreamtime stories.
Koala Habitat Tours to Rocky Waterholes, provided by guides from the Narrandera Koala Regeneration Advisory Committee, were fully booked. Tour bus driver Geoff Bock said the bus packed 24 people.
The first few tours were full and the rest were almost full, but the rain that fell in the afternoon didn’t dampen its passengers’ enthusiasm.
Mr. Bock said when he arrived back at the exhibition site in the rain near the end of the tours, festival-goers who had booked a seat were anxiously waiting to jump on board.
The festival ended at 9pm with the Tin Rattlers Bush Dance.
Cr Kschenka was pleased with the public response to the festival and described the event as a great success.
The council issued 890 tickets for booked activities. It is believed that the total number of visitors to the festival could be higher as a number of people who saw the activities came to the venue from the event parking lot or from the street.
Organizers hope the public appeal will see the festival become a permanent fixture on the Shire’s calendar of events.
See all the pictures from the event in the issue.
This article appeared in Narrandera ArgusSeptember 22, 2022.