1 April 2020

Nipped in the bud: Floriade becomes the latest cultural casualty of COVID-19

| Ian Bushnell
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Floriade 2019

Floriade 2019 was a record-breaking event. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The coronavirus public health emergency has forced the ACT Government to call off Canberra’s premier tourism event, Floriade, despite it being more than six months away.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the government could not guarantee the health and safety of all those involved and it was not logistically possible to proceed.

“After careful consideration, the ACT Government has decided not to proceed with Floriade and Floriade NightFest in Commonwealth Park this year,” he said.

“Given the significant planning and coordination required for Floriade, the ACT Government is not assured that the event can be set up and staged in a manner that guarantees compliance with current physical distancing requirements.

“Our concern is for the health and safety of our staff, visitors and volunteers.”

Preparations have been underway since last year and more than a million bulbs have already been procured for this year’s event.

The Chief Minister did not say what alternative events there may be, but there has been speculation that instead of a central floral display there might be pop-up shows across the suburbs to at least provide some colour after what could be a grim winter of lockdown in the capital.

Experts are unclear how long the virus will take to work its way through the population or how long physical distancing must be maintained to slow its spread, but it is plain that with an event of Floriade’s size a decision on its fate needed to be made sooner rather than later.

It is another blow to Canberra’s event calendar, already reeling from the loss of major events such as the National Folk Festival and the Canberra International Music Festival.

Floriade is always a morale booster after Canberra’s winter chill and would have been especially welcome this year.

It also a major sugar hit for the ACT economy.

The annual spring floral festival has never been cancelled in its 32-year history, evolving from a community affair to become a major tourism driver and earner for the Territory.

The government says Floriade 2018 had an economic impact of $38.6 million, with 48.1 per cent of visitors attending the event from interstate or overseas.

Last year the festival and NightFest contributed to record numbers of tourists visiting Canberra, pulling 507,550 people through the gates across the month, smashing its previous 2014 record of 481,854 people and exceeding the 2018 gate by more 27,000.

In recent years, it engaged regional producers, showcasing some of the best products from the Canberra region, with Pialligo Estate, Capital Brewing Co., Contentious Character and Underground Spirits joining a range of local food vendors and market stalls.

Floriade was due to be staged from 12 September to 11 October 2020.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.

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