Winner, winner chicken dinner.
The 2019 Tunarama Festival has come to a close and in my opinion it was one of the best Festival’s I can remember. There was plenty of discussion before the Festival opening regarding the revamped program and how it would affect visitor numbers. With Australia Day falling on a Saturday this year, the public holiday was observed on Monday the 28th of January and this left organisers with a conundrum. Utilise the Public Holiday to host the final day of the program, leaving no travel time for visitors before school officially returned on the Tuesday, or do something different. Organisers choose to start the Festival on the Thursday evening in the lead up to Australia Day and run the three day program over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was a brave decision. One that paid off in spades in my opinion.
Being involved as an MC for numerous Tunarama events gave me an opportunity to speak with everyone from casual visitors to the Festival to hardened committee members who eat, sleep and breathe Tunarama. They all told a common story. It wasn’t just moving away from the public holiday that was a winner. It was the revamped program that proved most pleasing to patrons. The huge amount of free activities for people of all ages gave people a chance to participate in the Festival like never before. Whether it was watching a movie on the foreshore, enjoying one of the musical acts that graced the Eyre Square stage or participating in one of the regular events and competition, Tunarama 2019 engaged the local community at a greater level than I’ve seen in my time involved with it.
Moving the Fireworks display to the final night of the Festival was a contentious decision. A brave decision. It wasn’t universally popular with the public before the Festival commenced. However as a massive full stop to a wonder three days full of events, it makes sense. It felt like the Fireworks display was finally in the right spot on the program. Not only as a full stop to this year’s Festival, but almost signalling the end of the school holidays all in the span of ten exciting minutes. I would say the Fireworks crowd was one of the largest I’ve seen in attendance in my 30 years attending the Festival. Any fears it wouldn’t be supported after the program change laid to rest.
What didn’t I like about Tunarama 2019? I’d have to be picky to find something. Perhaps the water events such as the boat building race and the slippery pole could have been moved earlier. When the breeze picked up on Saturday afternoon the water became a chilly place to be. But seriously, that’s being extremely picky. The entertainment in Eyre Square was top notch. Extra shade and seating were provide this year which pleased patrons and staple events such as the Tuna Toss finals and Street Procession were once again big highlights.
Presenting the Tunarama Ambassador Awards on the Friday night was another tick for the Festival committee. It gave the entrants an opportunity to be properly recognized throughout the festival for all of their hard work. It also allowed the entrants to relax and enjoy the majority of Festival and soak in the experience without the complication of being judged on every word they spoke and every movement they made. Congratulations to all of the entrants for raising nearly $100,000 for their chosen causes and to Damien Burner for being named the Tunarama Ambassador for 2019.
Finally congratulations must go to all of the staff, committee members and volunteers who worked together tirelessly to put on the 2019 Tunarama Festival. Courageous decisions are often criticised unfairly and this group have come under fire over the past couple of months. In my opinion, they were completely vindicated over the long weekend with their vision realised and supported by the average festival patron. Hopefully Tunarama 2019 signals the beginning of a golden age for our cities most important event. Well done Tunarama, I’m already looking forward to next year.