Why is Canberra the home of Summernats?

Every summer, tens of thousands of motoring enthusiasts take over the nation’s capital.

Rebecca Pearse stumbled across the Summernats festival during her first Canberra summer.

“I went to Lonsdale street on a Saturday night, just to get gelato and a beer, and it happened to be the night that the Summernats enthusiasts take over!”

She watched as festival goers cruised around Braddon, in Canberra’s inner-north.

Rebecca asked Curious Canberra why the annual festival is held in the city, and “what goes on there because I imagine a lot of people who live in Canberra just don’t go.”

For a city that’s also home to Floriade, an annual event dedicated to tulips, a festival dedicated to fast cars and burnouts might seem like a bit of a stretch.

But, in 2017 — the event’s thirtieth year — more than 119,000 people attended the festival that’s all about modified cars and the people who love to drive them.

There’s one person who knows exactly how it found a home in Canberra — its founder, Chic Henry.

Canberra and Summernats — ‘together forever’

Before Summernats was a thing, Chic Henry was a car-enthusiast and the director of the Australian Street Machines Federation.

The federation held national events, usually in country towns.

“Somebody told me about NATEX [National Exhibition Centre] — or EPIC [Exhibition Park in Canberra] as it’s called now — so I came this way and had a look.”

As a potential venue, it ticked a lot of boxes.

It was close to the highway, had plenty of exhibition space, on-site camping — and there was room grow.

His visit set the wheels in motion.

By 1988, Chic had moved to Canberra, left the Australian Street Machines Federation, and founded Summernats (“Nats is short for national, and we run it in summer”, just in case you were wondering).

These days, it’s co-owned and run by Andy Lopez.

“Chic built the Summernats around Exhibition Park … and Exhibition Park as a venue has developed around the Summernats,” he said, admitting that he’d considered moving the event.

For the uninitiated — here’s what it’s all about

If you haven’t been to Summernats that could be because the bulk of festival goers come from interstate.

Organisers estimate that 85 per cent of last year’s crowd travelled for the event, which is all part of the experience.

“What Summernats and Canberra really have in common is innovation … our event is about innovation.”

The event’s founder says it’s all about “cars that are modified, customised and restored”, and the people who build them.

“We can have them judged to find out the best paint and interior … we can have driving events that prove performance, we can cruise around … and have rock and roll bands,” Chic said.

There’s the official event program, and then there’s the part Rebecca observed — the late night cruising.

“If you go to the Summernats, you’ll see how some people just go round, and round, and round. They’d do it for 24 hours a day if you let them.”

And here’s what’s changed…

Seeing the mostly male Summernats crowd in Braddon prompted another question from our Curious Canberran.

“Who are the women that go?” Rebecca asked. “Is there a way to speak to one of them?”

Through Chic, I met Christine Corkhill, a Canberran who’s never missed an event. She’s also managed the burnout pad for more than 30 years.

Chrissie bought her first car, a Chevrolet, at 18.

She became involved in the event through her car club.

“There’s a lot of women behind the scenes … if they didn’t have the passion [for cars] they wouldn’t be working in the Summernats office.”

More women are attending the festival too. Owner Andy Lopez says female attendance has jumped from 15 to 35 per cent in the eight years he’s run the event.

“Summernats is continuing to become a place that women feel comfortable to be at,” he said.

He’s cancelled the Miss Summernats beauty contest too, a constant of the festival for the last 30 years.

“We thought it had run its course,” Andy said. “It didn’t bring anything to the event and it certainly didn’t line up with the way we want women to be presented at Summernats.”

For Chrissie, what keeps her coming back to the festival year after year isn’t something that can be explained in writing.

“You really have to come … and see what it’s about,” she said. “It is a great weekend and everyone should go at least once in their lifetime!”

Who asked the question?

If Rebecca’s name sounds familiar that’s because we’ve answered a question from her before.

She lived in Canberra for just under a year, and in that time found plenty of things to be curious about.

Rebecca Pearse was around for Summernats 2017. While she wasn’t sure what to make of it, she did look up how much it would cost to attend.

Midnight rainbow waterfall will honour LGBTI community this NYE

Posted December 05, 2017 16:04:42

The 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the same sex marriage vote will be celebrated with rainbow fireworks for the city’s 2018 New Year’s Eve celebrations.

A technicolour waterfall cascading off the Sydney Harbour Bridge will feature as part of the event which will be viewed by more than 1 billion people worldwide.

Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the display would show the world Sydney was now an accepting place.

“It will be a wonderful time for LGBTI people who for too long have been discriminated against,” she said.

“I think that ‘yes’ vote really meant, across Australia, we are saying we are progressive, we support equity and we support everyone to be able to marry the person they love.”

Steve Warren who marched in the first Mardi Gras in 1978 said it was a “triple whammy” celebration.

“It’s going to be a very exciting moment for us. It will be really good to showcase what we’ve been through in Australia and to spread that message around the world.

“That there is a beacon of hope for other people in other countries where LGBTI rights have still not been achieved.

“It’s going to be a really proud exciting moment to see that on the centre stage in Sydney.”

‘Our job is to make people happy’

Designs by street artist Nadia Hernandez that include inspirational words and animations will also be projected onto the bridge.

The Venezuelan national said the themes behind this year’s designs reflect her love of her adopted home.

“The way I draw a sense of belonging really comes from the elements and the icons of the city such as the Opera House and the water or seeing a cockatoo fly.

“They’re all the things that remind you of the city no matter where you are. They’re always going to be things from where you draw your strength and that’s what home is.”

At a cost of $7 million the annual fireworks event contributes an estimated $133 million to the local economy.

Fireworks director Fortunato Foti will be in charge of more than 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects on the night including a countdown from 10 to 1 in fireworks above the Harbour Bridge and aerial pyrograms which will appear to look like fish or serpents rising out of the water.

He says it will be the biggest New Year’s Eve event to date.

“We’re able to do a lot of research and development to come up with different effects, different ideas, different colours to make the display different.

“There’s no point saying it’s the biggest one or the best one.

“The best one is when people go away thinking ‘we haven’t seen that before’ and they go away happy. Our job is to make people happy.”

Topics: community-and-society, family-and-children, carnivals-and-festivals, gays-and-lesbians, sydney-2000, nsw

Dressed-up dogs walk on the bark side for Howl-o-ween

Updated October 30, 2017 14:57:48

A Halloween paw-rade of dressed-up dogs has struck terrier into the heart of Port Melbourne.

The Port’s Howl-O-Ween event on Sunday saw hundreds of costumed dogs and their equally outfitted owners parade through the streets of the inner-Melbourne suburb.

The spooky pooches even had their own trick-or-treat, with doggy delights handed out at various points along the walk.

Halloween event a furry first

This is the second year the Port Melbourne Business Association (PMBA) has organised a dog costume parade, although it is the first year it has been done specifically for Halloween.

Costumes included witches, bats and Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King’s IT.

Many owners dressed to match their pooches, with one woman opting to dress as Batman to her dog’s Robin.

Inner suburb a muttropolis

PMBA president Paul Littman said the event was an attempt to bring the local community of Port Melbourne together.

He told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s Jon Faine the suburb boasted many attractions for dogs and their owners.

“There’s a lot of dog activities. We’ve got a dog beach, dog walks, dog parks.”

He said PMBA believed Rouse Street, Port Melbourne may be the most densely populated dog street in Melbourne.

Supporting dogs doing it ruff

Organisers said more than 250 dogs had been registered to take part in the event.

But it was not all about looking fetching.

Each $10 registration fee went to the Lost Dog’s Home in North Melbourne, one of Australia’s largest animal welfare charities.

Founded in 1910, The Lost Dog’s Home cares for more than 26,000 animals every year.

Topics: human-interest, animals, carnivals-and-festivals, charities-and-community-organisations, offbeat, port-melbourne-3207, melbourne-3000

First posted October 30, 2017 14:38:19

Day of the Dead parade honours quake victims

Posted October 29, 2017 14:42:01

A sculpture of a raised fist made of helmets, pick axes and broken rubble rolled ahead of the hundreds of walking skeletons, costumed dancers and flowery floats in Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade, which this year honoured the 228 capital residents killed by a September 19 earthquake.

“Thank you, rescuers!” belted out Guadalupe Perez, 56, as she passed the sculpture, which was followed by contingents of rescuers, including dogs.

Mexico City’s central Zocalo plaza was filled by the papier mache dead, skeletal Catrina figures and candle-covered shrines where people were invited to place photographs of those killed in two recent earthquakes, which together left more than 400 dead across the country.

A raised fist was the signal the rescuers gave for silence to hear if anyone was trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building.

“[It] has become a national and international symbol,” parade coordinator Julio Blasina said.

“We had an obligation to pay tribute to the fallen, while transmitting the message that the city is still standing.”

This year’s parade featured a kilometre-and-a-half of floats honouring the celebration, which is an amalgam of pre-Hispanic and other traditions.

White, orange, purple and black paper cut-outs covered part of the Zocalo. Beneath them were papier mache skeletons with rescue vests and helmets, symbolising volunteers from the regions affected by the earthquakes, including Oaxaca, Chiapas, Morelos, Puebla and Guerrero. Other skeletons represented victims.

“We must not forget that the country is in mourning because there are many who do not have a home,” said Guadalupe Perez, whose apartment was badly damaged in a quake.

“But this is a beautiful party, unique in the world.”

Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations traditionally consisted of quiet family gatherings at the graves of their departed loved ones, bringing them music, drink and conversation.

In some towns, families leave a trail of orange marigold petals in a path to their doorways so the spirits of the dead can find their way home. Some light bonfires for the same purpose.

But it is increasingly celebrated with parades rife with floats, giant skeleton marionettes and thousands of participants. Influences of American Halloween celebrations and Hollywood zombie films are common.

“All our roots are reflected here,” said Leo Cancino, who took his family to see Saturday’s parade in Mexico City.

“Many are afraid of death but no, it’s part of life.”


Topics: carnivals-and-festivals, community-and-society, mexico

Ideas for a uniquely Australian Halloween

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Underwater musicians and other secrets out for 2018 Sydney Festival

Posted October 25, 2017 16:41:09

Sydney Festival director Wesley Enoch has said he has the “second-album jitters” during the launch of the program for next January’s event, after a hit festival last summer.

Mr Enoch is in his second year in the job and said repeating the success of his inaugural festival, which saw audience attendance up by 150,000, was a tough act to follow.

The 2018 program, running from January 6–28, has themes of human consumption, the evolution of feminism and our interaction with the digital realm.

An ethereal underwater concert AquaSonic will see five Danish musicians play custom-made instruments while submerged in aquariums.

UK’s National Theatre will bring the critically acclaimed Barber Shop Chronicles to Sydney while British choreographer Wayne McGregor teams up with artist Olafur Eliasson and musician Jamie xx for contemporary ballet Tree of Codes.

Local acts are also being featured including Circus Oz, which is celebrating its 40th birthday next year.

Performer Mitch Jones said their show examined the Australian suburban dream through music and physical feats.

“It’s exciting, it’s acrobatic, it’s topical, it’s funny, it’s great for the family and it’s got lots of spectacular acrobatics as well,” Mr Jones said.

For those looking for a quick cultural fix, Mr Enoch suggests Hyde Park’s Festival Village where you can hop on a karaoke carousel, immerse yourself in a virtual reality ghost train or take part in a 10-minute dance party.

“I think my big thing is that the festival has to be relevant to the city, it has to do something that asks people to go somewhere they haven’t been before,” he said.

“It’s kind of like the cultural speed date — something you can do for five or 10 minutes with your friends and family.

“Think of it as your cultural new year’s resolution: to do things that take you out of your comfort zone and express yourself in your city in summer.”

With nearly 140 events and 700 artists from 22 countries, the Sydney Festival is the nation’s largest.

Topics: carnivals-and-festivals, community-and-multicultural-festivals, arts-and-entertainment, theatre, dance, music, sydney-2000, parramatta-2150

Adelaide Festival to feature Grace Jones, ‘pots and pans’ orchestra

Posted October 24, 2017 17:37:57

A four-hour Shakespearean epic, an international ’80s singing star and the return of a floating palais will all feature in next year’s epic Adelaide Festival.

It is the second programme delivered by artistic directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy, whose contract has just been extended for another two festivals.

A total of 48 events across 17 days in March have been locked in, from dance and opera to film and visual arts.

Jamaican singer Grace Jones, who has not performed in Adelaide since the early 1980s, will deliver an Elder Park show on February 28 two days ahead of the official opening.

Another attraction across two nights on the opening weekend is the Lost and Found Orchestra, with more than 600 orchestral musicians to fill the riverbank park with sounds from everyday objects.

“Witches hats, water coolers, stove pipes, everything, and they create an incredible orchestra,” Healy said.

“[The] musicians come from the UK but they’ll be joined by 500 people from Adelaide who will create this musical extravaganza.”

Armfield said the family-friendly performance will be one of the most exciting Adelaide has seen.

“We were actually hoping to have them launch the 2017 festival but it all caught up with us and we couldn’t manage to bring all the forces together,” he said.

US jazz sensation Cecile McLorin Salvant will make her Australian debut.

Hailed as the voice of her generation, she has been compared to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

Returning to Adelaide are the creators of the hugely successful Roman Tragedies, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, with a four-and-a-half hour performance of Kings of War, which combines Shakespeare’s plays Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III.

Healy said it was a big coup to see the cast of 17 actors back in the city.

“Toneelgroep is probably the most successful and in demand theatre company in the world, everybody wants them,” she said.

“But they have a particular affection for Adelaide. Roman Tragedies was of course an iconic production here so it was an obvious conversation to have with them once we saw Kings of War.”

Also returning is the floating Riverbank Palais on the bank of Elder Park, which will host a range of different events.

It caused controversy, and lengthy council debate, because its concrete base was left behind after this year’s festival and not removed as originally planned.

“There were so many elements throughout the day and night that were wonderful [last year] that we just wanted to build on them and really focus on the Palais,” Healy said.

The Australian premiere of Armfield’s production of Brett Dean’s Hamlet for Glyndebourne Festival Opera will also be a feature of the March festival.

“There’s extraordinary musicians and singers, there’s epic theatre, incredibly beautiful intimate work,” Healy said.

“Adelaide in March is the place to be.”

Topics: carnivals-and-festivals, music, arts-and-entertainment, performance-art, sa, adelaide-5000