Backward Glance: Festivals
  • Wednesday 09 August 2017

As community halls across the region take centre stage in the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast celebrations with the Festival of Community Halls, we discover that from the early days, festivals have played a significant role in each and every Sunshine Coast resident’s social and entertainment calendar.

Nearly every community group, club, organisation and township has held a “festival” to celebrate a significant event or date, perhaps to highlight local talent or promote a local industry and its produce.

Early editions of the Nambour Chronicle feature reports on various church “harvest festivals” while later articles advertise numerous film, arts and drama festivals, including the Chelsea Flower Show, the Ginger Festival and even the Oktoberfest staged by the Buderim Lions Club.

Some things don’t change as all of these festivals only existed due to a great deal of community effort and enthusiasm.

They provided colour, ceremony, excitement, fun and a great opportunity for visitors and those newly settled in the area to join with long-term residents and have a great day out.

Over the years, many festivals have come and gone and today’s story highlights several that have celebrated the Sunshine Coast region’s wonderful produce and unique attractions.

Among these was the notable Golden Pineapple Festival conceived by the Great North Coast Show Society “as a means of stressing emphasis on the pineapple industry, promoting tourist trade, raising funds for various district charities, and culminating in a week of festivities.”

The festival “embraced the Near North Coast: and was held from April 30 to May 7, 1955 with various events held in many local townships.

The program included sports competitions, a car rally and a speed boat carnival, drama presentation, a pioneer’s dinner and a Golden Pineapple Ball.

There were street carnivals, the very popular Golden Pineapple Queen competition and a grand parade of floats followed by a Mardi Gras, which the Chronicle reported as “a spectacular finale to the festival attended by 3000 people”.

The highly successful festival created a “greater appreciation of the golden pineapple”.

In 1959, a Pineapple Festival was organised at Glass House Mountains as part of the Landsborough Shire’s Centenary plans.

Many might recall the Warana Festival which had its origins in Brisbane in 1961.

The first Nambour-Maroochy Sunshine Coast section of the Warana Festival was held in 1962 and became an annual event.

A highlight of the local festival was the street parade and a float depicting the region’s primary industries and tourist attractions.

It was usually included in the Warana Festival in Brisbane, where it was paraded before returning to Nambour to participate in the local Warana celebrations.

In 1968, the Sunshine Coast Promotion Bureau formed a sub-committee to plan the Sunshine Coast Spring Festival for September 1969.

The choice of September, the first month of spring, emphasised that the festival was on the Sunshine Coast and would be the region’s own festival in place of Warana.

The first Spring Carnival was reported as “an outstanding success” with a Miss Sunshine Coast Quest and concert, and full program of events offering “fun in the sun in South-East Queensland”.

Caloundra’s first Sunshine Festival was organised by the Caloundra Lions Club and involved nearly a year of preparation.

It was officially opened on November 3, 1966 and was launched with a Hawaiian dinner dance.

The nine-day festival provided a spectacular program of events ranging from a National Fitness Sports Day at Henzell Park, a surfing carnival, fishing and woodchop competitions and the Great Crab Race to the crowning of the Sunshine Festival Queen, a colourful street procession with vintage cars and a Mardi Gras.

A Bath Tub Derby held during the New Year weekend of 1973-1974 by Caloundra Apex Club was one of the most exciting and more unusual of the region’s festivals.

The initial event was conducted in conjunction with a marathon at Bulcock Beach and in the following year it became a large scale annual carnival including a street parade.

Later, the Bath Tub Derby was held on the northern side of Currimundi Lake and then at Apex Park in the Military Jetty area of Golden Beach.

During the years the associated festivities became bigger and better, attracting increasing interest from national sponsors.

In January 1979, the Bath Tub Derby was the official state qualifying event for powered bath tubs to compete in the Australian Championships in Brisbane.

In August 1977, a new festival was launched which highlighted the importance of the sugar industry to the Sunshine Coast region and also captured the spirit and vibrancy of the area.

It was the long running Sugar Festival, initiated as an annual event by the Nambour Jaycees who organised the first week-long program of events which featured a spectacular street parade through Nambour to the showgrounds and a Sugar Queen Quest.

The townspeople and businesses of Nambour joined the celebrations and went all out decorating their shop windows and the streets with leafy cane decorations.

After a lapse, the festival was revived in 1991, supported by local residents and the business community.

It included the usual popular festivities as well as thrilling billy kart races and a Sweet Heart Quest which, like previous queen competitions provided a popular way to raise funds throughout the community.

Fast forward to today and we still love festivals.

Whether it is the Festival of Community Halls happening throughout August and September or the Horizon Festival from August 25-September 3, featuring more than 200 events in visual art, film, literature, performance, street art, comedy, music, theatre and new media across the regio, there is definitely something for everyone!

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

In 2017 we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast. For more information on this milestone anniversary visit

Image captions:

Hero image: Greek Community float participating in the Warana Festival Celebrations, Currie Street, Nambour on September 28, 1963.

Carousel images:
Image 1: Maroochy float entered in the annual Warana festival procession, Nambour, 1966.
Image 2: Maroochy Shire's float leading the Warana Spring Festival Parade along Currie Street, Nambour, 1965.
Image 3: Entrants in the Golden Pineapple Festival Queen Competition at the Pineapple Queen Ball Nambour, May 1955.
Image 4: Agui Monagi and Dave Kubler with the Moreton Sugar Mill entry in the annual Sugar Festival parade, Nambour, 1992.
Image 5: Sugarcane harvester and cane truck in the annual Sugar Festival parade, Currie Street, Nambour, 1979.
Image 6: Eudlo’s decorated float carrying the Eudlo Queen, Hazel Johnson in the Golden Pineapple Festival procession, Currie Street, Nambour, May 7, 1955.
Image 7: Vintage cars in the Caloundra Sunshine Festival procession, November 5, 1966.