OUR bid to become the festivals capital of Australia is dramatically gaining momentum.
University of Wollongong research ranked Coffs Harbour’s Local Government Area as ninth in NSW for the number of festivals based on 2007 figures with 25 events in total – our national standing was 26.
Since then, however, another 25 festivals have been added to our calendar elevating us to fourth spot in NSW and seventh nationally.
The standout for the State in 2007 was Snowy River with its 62 festivals, followed by the good folk of Greater Taree, Lake Macquarie, Wollongong, Shoalhaven, Wagga Wagga, Great Lakes, Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour and Blue Mountains.
Ballarat led the national rankings with a whopping 73 festivals flooding money into the town.
The database was compiled by a team of researchers led by human geographers Professor Chris Gibson from the University of Wollongong and Professor John Connell from the University of Sydney.
The catalysts for the project came several years ago when they visited the popular Parkes Elvis Revival Festival and were so impressed with what that signature event had done for its community, they decided to investigate the benefits of festivals across three states.
“We’re interested in how festivals have contributed to the re-invention of country towns and how they gel the community together and give pride to a community,” Prof. Gibson said this week.
“Festivals are also extremely important in contributing to regional development, considering visitors tend to spend something like $450 per person, per festival.
“They are an important part of regional life.”
The unique research revealed an incredible 2856 festivals across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
“The story across the whole study is that a lot of these festivals are really small and are mostly run by non-profit organisations who are not out to make a huge buck,” Prof. Gibson said.
Coffs Coast Marketing manager Glenn Caldwell said public events had an important role to play in the future development of our region.
“Any type of event that is going to have a direct economic impact or have tourism benefits is certainly a significant benefit to our region,” Mr Caldwell said.
“When you start to doing the calculations on the multiplier effect, the benefits are huge.”
Mr Caldwell said Coffs Harbour City Council was continuing to build on major sporting events in our area, too.
A $2.2 million upgrade of the BCU International Stadium’s lighting to digital TV standard, announced last week by the Federal Government, is a key part of this strategy.
“The council has seed funding in place to ensure the growth of festivals in our region,” Mr Caldwell said.
Of the 25 new festivals added to Coffs Harbour’s calendar since the report was done, several have already proven they will be here to stay.
The Saltwater Freshwater Festival – a celebration of local indigenous culture – was the biggest success story with 15,000 people packing into the Botanic Garden on Australia Day this year.
The numbers were three times expectations.
The Festival was created as a nomadic event but it’s believed it will remain in Coffs Harbour due to the overwhelming patronage it received.
The Easter Fishing Classic is another event that has appeal way beyond our local government boundaries and it too is building.
Cool Creek Rhythms, the new name of the Food and Wine Festival, is yet another event that strikes a chord with locals and reflects the shifting demography of the Coffs Harbour region.
The State and national marketing of our region includes both the Nambucca and Bellingen Shires as collectively, the Coffs Coast, and with the inclusion of those regions, we would easily eclipse the historic Victorian gold mining town of Ballarat as the number-one destination for travellers seeking a colorful holiday with the virtual guarantee of a festival, every week of the year.