This year, performers from China’s Leshan city, which was ravaged by a devastating earthquake, have been invited to their sister city on the Fraser Coast in a bid to find peace and harmony.
The 2008 Sichuan earthquake killed 69,197, injured 374,176, and a further 18,222 people were reported as missing in what is thought to be China’s deadliest quake since 1976.
The earthquake left a reported 4.8 million homeless, but officials believe it could be much higher with as many as 11 million people without somewhere to live.
If they accept, the Chinese performers, who also starred in the closing ceremony at the Sydney and Beijing Olympics, will be one of the highlights of the Fraser Coast Festival, on March 29.
The festival, which first started in March 2007, attracted around 4000 to 5000 people in its first year, a figure which doubled to around 80,00 to 10,000 in the following year.
Organisers are expecting as many as 20,000 people this year.
Dutch born festival CEO Hans Kronemeyer and his Spanish born wife Lola – who assists with the festival’s marketing and promotions – want to emulate some of the great festivals in Europe with this event.
“We wanted an event around World Harmony Day in March to symbolise harmony between different cultures. We were asked on the first festival to help out with a cultural exhibition which is also part of the event and we loved it,” Hans says.
“In the first year we had mostly local groups and performers, last year the main attractions were the Mexican group from Sydney and also Chooky Gang – the Aboriginal group from the Northern Territory who put together a dance around Zorba the Greek.
“This year we are going to invite a few more groups, Greek dancers, Argentians, Cook Islanders, and we are planning a children’s stage.
“We remember the festivals in Europe and thought this could grow into a fantastic event for everyone.”
The free event, held at Scarness Park along the foreshore of Hervey Bay on March 29, follows a gala performance in Maryborough’s Brolga Theatre on March 28, to showcase the best festival performers.
In conjuction with the festival, on 21 March, the festival organisers will stage a Rhythm of Nations dance party where a popular dance group will be invited to perform.
“It is a festival that gets all of the community together. There are about 40 different cultural groups in Hervey Bay alone and on the whole of the Fraser Coast probably more,” Hans says.
“It gives the opportunity for everybody to come and enjoy other people’s cultures and join and learn and work together.
“If we get the Chinese group out here they will come out for business development and we will also be encouraging business tourism.”
Highlights of the event include a parade of nations where participants dress in their national costumes, and an international food court boasting fare from Spain, Greece, Japan, Hungary, the Philippines, Italy, France and south-east Asia.
“We think that as far as cultural festivals go, we’ve seen a few and the quality of our perfomers are better. We are now getting groups from all around Australia,” Hans says.
“We are making a special effort to get quality people here and also an extra effort into entertaining children.
“If they come they will really enjoy the food and the atmosphere. Last year the event was meant to end at 5pm but at 5.30pm you still had the Mexican group playing, and the Aboriginal group dancing and it was all the different cultures getting together.
“We think it will help the community and really please the community and if it brings some business to Hervey Bay and tourism that will only be good for the town and city.”
Fraser Coast Festival organisers are still looking for sponsors and volunteers for this event.
To assist, please go to www.culturalfestivals.com.au or contact Hans Kronemeyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fraser Coast Cultural Festival
When: March 22-29, 2009
Where: Pialba, Hervey Bay and Maryborough
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