Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Festival Cairns

Just realized I posted pictures without much explanation. As I try to fully integrate into Aussie culture (e.g., netball, sushi trains, "reckon"), these sorts of "local flavor" events are definitely my favorite.

I have a lot of respect for Cairns. Considering how easily Cairns could just be another tourist stop (see Port Douglas, Noosa), Cairns really goes out of its way to provide local events and to create a sense of community in town. For three weeks every September Cairns puts on Festival Cairns with a host of various events around town. Jeff and I went to the Cairns Regional Museum to take in art from Far North Queensland artists. Definitely the highlight of this show was a sculpture titled "Shark Watch" that was a clay shark sitting on a life guard chair in complete Aussie lifeguard attire (i.e., red and yellow beanie).

But the true culmination of Festival Cairns was last Saturday. It included the Rotary duck race, the Parade of Lights and the Fireworks extravaganza. The duck race is a raffle, you can sponsor a duck for $5, then the ducks race across the lagoon, and the first duck to reach the end of the chute wins thousands of dollars in prizes. How thrilling does that sounds! I was very excited for the race. It turns out rubber duckies don't tend to race of their own accord, like cane toads, they require a bit of prodding. This was provided by two lifeguards, pushing an inflatable barrier at the back of the duck pack to coax them along. The entire race takes about 20 minutes, which for an event that involves watching rubber duckies drift across a pool, is quite a long time. They even have moment by moment commentary, "Now there's a cheeky little blue ducks looking to make a move." Still, it was great to see so many people come out.

The Parade of Lights had all the hallmarks of a good community parade (just like the Somerville Memorial Day parade only without the Shriners in tiny cars or the revolutionary war re-enactors): high school marching bands, dance troupes, Karate schools, Hare Krishnas, and unicyclists. Afraid the pictures didn't come out very well from these, as the light was dying, but three floats were my favorites. The first was a school that dressed up as the Esplanade (see photo below). As I've already established my fondness for the Esplanade, I'm sure you'll understand my great pleasure at seeing a host of kids dressed up as the water fountain in the lagoon and the big fish statues, compete with big blue tarp connected them, followed by kids dressed up as palm trees and sunbathers. Fantastic.

The other two floats were a gymnastics troupe that had mounted a trampoline on the back of a semi truck and a day care center that in an effort to emphasize safety had put up a 4ft fence surrounding the float, thus making the kids look caged.

As soon as the parade ended, people raced across the street and onto the Esplanade for a good view of the fireworks out over the water. Of course, the fireworks didn't start for a good 40 minutes, so we decided to give up our great position which we had knocked little old ladies over to get to, and go have a beer. Fireworks are in the sky anyway, right?


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