Who remembers Moomba Festival? The last few years have been rough on everyone and it has disrupted key events in Melbourne. One of which has been the annual Moomba Festival which has had its frequency and planning completely torn apart by the global pandemic.
The festival as always is a celebration of community; with families encouraged to spend the event together and participate in crafts or dance workshops; as well as speculate firework displays and watch live music.
History of Moomba
The first Moomba Festival took place in 1955 as a 15-day with an extensive program including a cycling road race, parades, and floats across land and sea; as well as a firework display. While the duration of the event might have been scaled down somewhat; a lot of the traditions have kept up or even grown in stature. In fact, the firework displays are often seen as one of the highlights with spectators lining up in Birrarung Marr to get a glimpse of the famous evening light display. Now held over the long weekend of Labour Day, the festival has been condensed into an enthralling four-day period with something for everyone.
While the parade isn’t the totality of the event; for many, it sticks out as the key unmissable part of Moomba. The people of Melbourne and visiting parties line Swanston Street to catch a glimpse of the eye-catching floats. The procession’s theme might differ slightly every year but has largely centred on the original flavour to bring people together and have fun; in many ways a consolidation of the entire objective of the festival.
One of the prominent features of the festival is the Moomba Monarchs. This was introduced in the 1967 event when Robert Morley and Patsy Earp were named the King and Queen respectively. Since its induction, other monarchs have included Mickey Mouse, Harry Kewell, and Ruby Rose. The most recent Moomba Monarchs from 2022 came in the shape of Peter Hitchener and Fifi Box.
Birdman Rally, Sports and Rides
Another key feature that joined later on but is not widely seen as a Moomba festival hallmark is the Birdman Rally. If you’ve not been to the rally before, then it truly is a sight to behold. The people of Melbourne comically construct fanciful flying devices, whether it be capes, soapboxes with questionable wings, or non-sensical parachutes – it’s all good fun as gravity as they all make a splash in the Yarra River. Most of the participants do so to raise money or awareness for charity; so it’s good fun, but good fun with a great cause!
After the rally everyone tends to be in the mood for fun; so many more river activities ensue. These all take place on the River Yarra too, with professional water skiing and wakeboarding as the Moomba Masters Champions tournament typically takes place annually on Moomba Monday. In recent years this has expanded to include Dragon Boat racing which takes place alongside Swan Street bridge. Skateboarding competitions have also started to crop up around Melbourne for Moomba; also found down by the Yarra.
Carnivals are also commonplace throughout Melbourne during the festival period, with two of the most popular found in Alexandra Gardens and Birrarung Marr. These are especially popular with young families who want to eat sweet candy and ride Ferris wheels. If you are taking little ones be sure to take them to Pirates Cove Playground and look out on the schedule to see if they can meet their favourite characters including Bluey the Blue Heeler pup.
Of course, there are some bigger rides for the bigger kids who are looking for some heightened adrenaline. If you’re inclined to ride all the big ones, be sure to look out for the Friday Ride Pass deal which gives you unlimited access to all the rides for three hours on the Friday of the weekend.
Hear, Dance and Play
If you want to get your groove on during Moomba; then you most certainly can do. Palms Lawn typically hosts a ream of music events including a silent disco, drumming workshops, and performances celebrating world music from across the globe. Of course, you can just nod along with the beat at the back or get involved in one of the many dance activities. Here you can also get behind the 9News Desk and have a go at presenting the breaking stories – or participate in the Hula Hoop workshop!
Equally, the Star Garden has similar content which typically showcases the very best of Melbourne’s vibrant music scene with a cross-genre selection often curated across the weekend here. That goes alongside some family-friendly material including those performing with bubbles!
The Garden is where creativity thrives and is also home to the aforementioned Pirates Cove. One of the highlights is the ‘Design a Float; competition where one lucky aspiring young artist could have their drawing turn into a real-life float for next year’s festival!
The vast majority of these events part of the festival are free entry which means you don’t have to spend excessive money to have a good time. Maybe a few dollars on some picnic food or a meal from a food truck will see you by.
If you want to plan and circle the next edition in your calendar, the 2023 edition is scheduled to take place between the dates of the 10th and 13th of March; which of course runs alongside the Labour Day weekend festivities in Melbourne. If you’re especially interested in the Birdman Rally, then be sure to be free on the 12th of March – and head down to Birrarung Marr.