Around 50 people attended a public meeting, to hear the findings of an independent consultants review on the Clarence Valley’s iconic Jacaranda Festival. The meeting was held on Tuesday, February 2, at the Grafton District Services Club.
The Festival Review was a joint partnership with the Jacaranda Festival Committee Incorporated and the Clarence Valley Council.
The purpose of the review was to build on volunteer efforts to further develop the traditional event into the future and make it as attractive as it was, back in its heyday (1950’s-1980’s).
A tender went out around August/September last year to employ the services of a consultant, to obtain a complete overview of the running of the festival and to shed light on what changes were needed, to keep the festival viable, into the future.
Consultant Krista Hauritz of Ballina who produced the 64 page in depth report, presented her findings to those who attended Tuesday night’s meeting.
Ms Hauritz attended last year’s Jacaranda Festival and noted that the volunteers and staff were becoming burnt out.
She suggested that a ‘purple army’ of volunteers be created to ease the pressure.
The main things which were addressed in the report were: programming, visitation, monitoring, community, challenges and financial sustainability.
Ms Hauritz said that as a first time visitor to the festival there were notable areas which needed to be addressed:
• Where is the festival?
• There was no major signage or banners on the highway or entry to the town, except for the street banners by council (located in Prince Street).
• No grandstand seating or big screens to maximise the stage events.
• The length of the festival is too drawn out and needs to be staged over maybe nine days instead of three weeks.
• Have the official launch earlier in the year with the Festival Ball held in April.
• Maximise on major fund raisers in May, with a Jacaranda Mothers Day lunch, fashion parade and auction.
• Another major fundraiser in September could be a Father’s Day event – Boats, BBQ and Beer.
• Encourage sporting clubs (eg bowls and golf) to get involved with holding tournaments during the week (Monday – Wednesday).
• Provide opportunities for visitors eg coach groups and travellers, to meet and greet the Royal Party and also have pop-up souvenirs’ and pop-up information and ticket booths.
The draft proposal suggested a three year plan for executive positions and event manager to maximise on their experience and knowledge of the festival.
Other suggestions made within the report were:
• Hop-on hop-off open bus or horse drawn carriage to view the jacaranda trees.
• Guided tours of the city.
• The crown jewels (cloak, crown etc) on display all year round at the tourist information centre.
• Income generation through gold coin donations at events, reserved seating, parking, merchandising etc.
• Lighting the town purple – best lit homes competition – something for visitors to view at night.
• Purple lights on our new bridge, paving the entrance into the Jacaranda City.
• More open gardens and maybe homes – coaches take around 2000 visitors to view the open gardens each year.
• More roving entertainment and more seating.
The vision of the draft report is – “to create a distinctive nationally acclaimed festival that pays tribute to Grafton’s Jacarandas and delivers on the Jacaranda Spirit that is beautiful, welcoming, fun, creative and a little bit crazy.”
Jacaranda Festival Committee president Trevor Green said that he was encouraged by the contents within the draft report, which can only improve the festival.
“The committee and members of the Jacaranda Festival are excited,” said Mr Green.
“We hope that the community and business houses can get behind us and help us to implement the proposal and suggestions created by the consultant.
“These changes will not take place immediately – it will take time.
“We are making basic changes within the administration area, at the moment.”
“It’s an exciting time and we look forward to taking the Jacaranda traditions into the future.”