The Benalla Festival Advisory Committee is seeking the community's memorabilia from the event's 46-year history.By Monique Freer
Former Benalla Rural City councillors gathered last week to reminisce about the Benalla Festival as the countdown begins to this year’s event.
Former Benalla Rural City mayor Philip Messenger was instrumental in the launch of the first ever Rose Festival in 1967 and said the festival was initiated to give community members pride in their town.
‘‘Just about every organisation tried to do something throughout the week in some form or another,’’ Mr Messenger said.
‘‘It’s given a sense of pride to the people in the town, even if they’re not involved in the festival they felt that Benalla was back on the map.’’
Former councillor Don Firth agreed the festival was integral in connecting the Benalla community with the town.
‘‘That was the point and it worked, that was the point of the whole festival,’’ he said.
‘‘The community involvement was huge.’’
The Benalla Festival — formerly the Rose Festival — began in 1967 just after the closure of the Benalla Migrant Camp.
Mr Messenger fondly remembered the huge street parade and the official opening of the Rose Gardens on that weekend in 1967, but said his favourite memory of any festival was undoubtedly the inaugural, and only, masked ball.
‘‘My favourite memory would be the hugely successful masked ball which was absolutely amazing because everybody didn’t know who everybody was and it was just fantastic,’’ he said.
But for others, their choice of favourite event was unanimous.
‘‘The fireworks,’’ Mayor Barbara Alexander and Mr Firth agreed.
The fireworks will return to the Benalla Festival this year, as well as other traditional favourites such as the street parade and A Day in the Gardens.
‘‘The three-weekend program means we can have a really wide variety of events, from art and photography exhibitions to Skate ’n Jam and the Show Us Your Ink tattoo competition,’’ Festival Advisory Committee chair Councillor Suzy Martin said.
The Benalla Festival will run over three weekends from November 1 to 17, and will also include a multicultural street party with international food and music on the evening of Friday, November 8.
Nearly all events will be provided for free or at low cost.
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