11 of Australia's Quirkiest Festivals

Kooky, quirky and often uproarious, these events are guaranteed to be memorable. 11 of Australia's Quirkiest Festivals
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11 of Australia's quirkiest festivals

Kooky, quirky and often uproarious, these events are guaranteed to be memorable. 


By Jac Taylor

Australia's towns and cities love to celebrate, with events taking place throughout the year. And with the Aussie sense of humour sometimes leaning towards eccentric, you might find yourself taking part in a chariot race with watermelons on your feet or performing an Elvis classic with a crowd of strangers. All that matters is that you're having fun.

Celebrate in Australia

CHINCHILLA MELON FESTIVAL, CHINCHILLA, QUEENSLAND

It's messy, it's juicy and it's huge. The Melon Festival in the "melon capital of Australia", Chinchilla, a 3 1/2 hours drive west of Brisbane, has all the traits of its the crop it celebrates. As well as the many events in which citizens use watermelons as shoes, hats, obstacle course flooring, shot puts and everything else you can think of, visitors can enjoy eating competitions and chariot races. There's also a slippery tug of war, on a plastic sheet in a field of watermelon pieces.

Key dates: 16 - 19 February 2017 (held every second year)
 

DENILIQUIN UTE MUSTER, DENILIQUIN, NEW SOUTH WALES

On one of the largest and flattest plains in the world, an annual event takes place that is so genuinely iconic, it has even made the Guinness World Records. The Deniliquin Ute Muster is dedicated to the ute (short for utility vehicle), an essential part of farm life in the Outback. Thousands of locals and visitors converge to celebrate in the unofficial rural uniform, the blue singlet, and enjoy rodeo events, live music acts (past performers include Keith Urban and Jimmy Barnes), and Aussie ute stunts such as "circlework" and "handbrakeys". 

Key dates: 29 - 30 September 2017
 

MARY POPPINS FESTIVAL, MARYBOROUGH, QUEENSLAND

What could a famous Disney character and Queensland's Fraser Coast possibly have in common? Mary Poppins’s creator, author PL Travers, was born here in Maryborough, and this picturesque town celebrates the art of storytelling with the exuberant Mary Poppins Festival. Maryborough is better known for its proximity to the world's largest sand island, Fraser Island, and whale watching capital Hervey Bay. But each June-July school holidays the streets fill with chimney sweeps, immaculately dressed nannies racing prams, performance artists, art installations, and a charming Story Trails experience through the town.

Key dates: 23 June - 2 July 2017
 

BEER CAN REGATTA, DARWIN, NORTHERN TERRITORY

There is more to recycling than simply throwing your beer cans in the correct bin. For one day each July, used beer cans are turned into boats that may or may not actually be seaworthy, to compete in the Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta at famously scenic Mindil Beach. Expect sabotage, piracy and plenty of laughs as competitors throw the rule book out the window in this easygoing, hilarious event. It's accompanied by beach pursuits such as sandcastle building, a "thong throw" (referring to the local footwear) and a tug of war.

Key date: 9 July 2017
 

HENLEY ON TODD REGATTA, ALICE SPRINGS, NORTHERN TERRITORY

The desert-bound capital of the Red Centre of Australia, Alice Springs is a practical town. Its Todd River runs dry for 95 per cent of the year, so it's best not to wait for water if you want to have a boat race. Hence about 20,000 spectators come every year to watch competitors run their elaborately built "boats" down the dry riverbed during the Henley on Todd Regatta. Fancy dress is encouraged, even among those watching. It's safe to say the town stands still when it's regatta time.

Key date: 19 August 2017
 

THE GOOD DOG! FILM FESTIVAL, SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

With countless internet surfers watching puppy videos every day, it was only a matter of time before this happened. A two-day film festival devoted entirely to movies featuring man’s best friend, The Good Dog! Film Festival partners with the Easter Dog Parade, also run annually in Sydney, to raise money for dog charities. Open air screenings take place in a city park.

Key dates: December 2017 (to be announced)
 

ELVIS FESTIVAL, PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES

It's about as far away from Graceland as you can imagine, but this far western New South Wales town, five hours from Sydney, has been celebrating The King for 25 years. The five-day Elvis Festival transforms the townspeople of Parkes into a bedazzled, sideburned lot ready to swivel their hips at the slightest provocation. Expect dozens of Elvis impersonators, who come to busk on the streets and compete for the title of Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist. You’ll also catch rock'n'roll dancing, a Miss Priscilla pageant and plenty more.

Key dates: January 2018 (to be announced)
 

THE CAMEL CUP, ALICE SPRINGS, NORTHERN TERRITORY

They may not be native to Australia, but camels are a much-loved part of Outback life and a reminder of our country's amazing early Afghan cameleers. In Alice Springs camels compete every July for the coveted Camel Cup, drawing about 5000 spectators, who stay for other attractions such as markets, rickshaw racing and perhaps a drink or two to toast the champion.

Key date: 15 July 2017
 

RUNNING OF THE SHEEP, BOOROWA, NEW SOUTH WALES

Spain has the Running of the Bulls. Australia has the Running of the Sheep, the finishing touch to the annual, free Irish Woolfest, held every October in Boorowa, a 3 1/2 hour drives west of Sydney. The festival celebrates the town's roots and its source of livelihood. Local businesses organise woolly window displays, stalls hawk homemade wares and a parade leads up to the main event, when sheep are herded through the streets by a local, Farmer Ashley, and his friendly pack of kelpie dogs.

Key date: 1 October 2017
 

THE COMPASS CUP COW RACE, MOUNT COMPASS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Australians really do like a race, and this one embraces the chaos and hilarity of untrained cows "racing" – loosely speaking – to raise money for the local community. The Compass Cup Cow Race takes place in Mount Compass, a farming town an hour south of Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges. It also includes a petting zoo, tractor pull, sideshows and stalls, as well as a ute show for motoring enthusiasts to show off their beloved farm trucks, often decorated in the cow theme of the day.    

Key date: January 2018 (to be announced)
 

TUNARAMA, PORT LINCOLN, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

January 26 is Australia Day, a national holiday that heralds a long weekend, and many towns organise festivities to reflect their local character. The fishiest of these would have to take place in Port Lincoln. This "seafood capital of Australia", right on the rich waters of the Spencer Gulf, celebrates the holiday with the Tunarama festival. The highlight is the Tuna Toss, a competition in which the town's most famous export, tuna, is lobbed in an Olympic-style hammer throw. The 37 metre (122 feet) record was set by a former Olympian! 

Key date: 26 January 2017

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