25 September 2020

Big Merino turns purple for Goulburn’s 69th Lilac Festival

| Hannah Sparks
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he Big Merino

The Big Merino in Goulburn. Photo: File.

Goulburn’s iconic Big Merino will be lit purple for the October long weekend (3-5 October), despite the decision to cancel or move many 2020 Lilac Festival events online due to coronavirus.

The city’s churches and businesses will also dress-up for the no-contact event, while lilac pansies and violas are already in bloom in Belmore Park.

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Festival-goers will also be able to walk or drive-by the gardens taking part in the annual competition.

A new fun run and canoe race along Goulburn’s Wollondilly Walkway on Monday, 5 October, will also add some colour to this year’s festival. The fun run was once a festival staple and participants are, of course, encouraged to dress-up in lilac.

Pansies and violas

Pansies and violas in Belmore Park, Goulburn. Photo: DTC Photography.

Registration for the fun run opens at 7.30am and the run begins at 8am, while registration for the canoe race opens at 9.30am and the race begins at 10am. Both are free and there will be prizes. Next year, organisers will turn the new event into a triathlon by adding a cycling heat.

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The festival’s Joyland Carnival, markets and pet parade may have been cancelled, however the opening ceremony, announcement of winners of the garden, window display and lilac prince and princess competition will go online, and be available to view on the festival’s Facebook page.

Lilac queen April Watson will also be out and about, including at locals schools while students perform in their bands for Facebook.

Lilac Queen April Watson

Lilac Queen April Watson. Photo: Goulburn City Lilac Festival Facebook page

Lilac Festival president of two years Carol James said she was disappointed the festival was scaled-down this year but pleased that the show would go on.

“We had thousands of people in Belmore Park last year on Saturday morning and now the coronavirus rules say we can only have 50 people there, so really we can’t do anything,” Ms James said. “Even if we moved to Victoria Park, we can only have 500 people and, without gates, we couldn’t control them.”

The no-contact event will also impact the committee’s income, however funds from last year’s festival will carry them over to the 70th anniversary in 2021.

“I’m hoping people will get behind us and start thinking about their float for the parade or what they’re going to do in the procession,” Ms James said.

The festival began in 1951 and is one of Australia’s oldest continually running festivals, held each October long weekend with food, flowers, markets and music.

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