A tale of two cities

It’s a tale as old as time, said someone other than Charles Dickens about love and hate and everything in between. It’s also what comes to mind when I read letters to the editor or online comments about the Fraser Coast’s duelling siblings—Maryborough and Hervey Bay.

I’m in the unenviable position of having a foot in both camps. I grew up in Maryborough, worked there briefly after University and continue to visit my mother there to this day. However, as a child I spent weekends and holidays in Hervey Bay, which became my home after I made a seachange two and a half years ago.

Via rainbowbeachaustralia.wordpress.com

Via rainbowbeachaustralia.wordpress.com

I was working for the (then) Maryborough City Council at the time Hervey Bay first really started to outgrow Maryborough. It was the early-mid 1990s, the tide was turning and a rivalry developing between the two councils. We’d always been lumped together as a region for State and Federal Government purposes but the sleepy satellite city of Hervey Bay was suddenly on everyone’s map. I had no problem with this and worked closely with my counterpart in the Hervey Bay City Council. Opportunities to collaborate and garner economies of scale were a no-brainer.

Fast-forward twenty years and Maryborough really hasn’t grown at all. It’s far from the bustling city of my youth. Hervey Bay on the other hand, continues to grow exponentially. Unsurprisingly, services and facilities gravitate to the more populated area. That was once Maryborough. It is now Hervey Bay. And that’s the cold hard fact that many struggle to accept.

I had a conversation with a long-term Bay resident recently and they reminded me that Hervey Bay-ites once had the same issue—just in reverse. It wasn’t exactly a lightbulb moment but I was forced to remember my Urangan-based grandparents travelling to Maryborough to the supermarket, for medical appointments and to visit government offices.

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Via seahavenbeachvillas.com.au

I don’t remember them whining about it and I think that’s because it was all they knew. Anyone over 35-40 can still probably recall Maryborough in its heyday. They remember when it was hub and Hervey Bay the toddler gadding about and babbling incoherently. They’re the ones who feel Maryborough’s changing fortune more than others. Younger people have no idea and struggle to believe Maryborough was once bigger and better-serviced than Hervey Bay.

Like I said, I understand where Maryborough peeps are coming from and its dying CBD devastates me, but I also understand the logic in services, facilities and shops gravitating to where the people are. And – sadly – that’s not Maryborough. It’s a vicious circle because it means people subsequently move to where the services are located.

So… is Maryborough doomed? I hope not. Perhaps things will turn around again. Who knows?

I just believe though in the meantime, rather than bicker about ‘who’ has ‘what’ we should accept reality and work together and at least try to get along.

I submitted this to the Fraser Coast Chronicle a few weeks ago (but think it's too long and a bit convoluted!).

A busy weekend in the Borough

It’s that time of year—the festivals start and the whales make their way up the coastline. And it all kicks off this weekend in Maryborough, starting with my favourite event on the Fraser Coast….

Relish Food and Wine Festival

I first went in 2013 and was pleasantly surprised by the event. My expectations were very high second time around, and although there were more food options in 2014, there didn’t seem to be as many stalls and I really struggled on the gluten-free front. My friends were delighted with what was on offer, but I asked at place after place for coeliac-friendly meals to no avail. In the end I bought a bag of organic gluten-free corn chips from someone selling salsa.

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Nonetheless I’m looking forward to this year’s event with a stack of new sessions available. Not only can you attend the wine or beer and food matching options (for $25), but there’s also a Wolf Blass Master Class on board the Hervey Bay Boat Club’s boat travelling on the Mary River (for $30) and a long lunch featuring some great local chefs (for $85). I did think about offering my services to live-tweet the lunch (in exchange for a sumptuous repast), but….

On the beer and wine tasting front: Wolf Blass, Vintner’s Secret, Kingsley Grove, Crane’s Wines (a fave of mine from 2013), Clovely Estate, Uncle Bob’s Estate Organic Wine and Yenda Craft Beers will be in attendance.

Of course there’ll be food on sale (and I’m crossing my fingers re GF options) as well as music, stalls and the crowd favourite—foodie talks and cooking demos.

The event stretches from Queen’s Park right around the Portside precinct to the lovely Gatakers Artspace.

Tickets are available online for $12 or at the gate for $15. The gates open at 11am with things wrapping up at 6pm. Check out the Relish site for more info, including a map.

For social media fiends, there’s a Relish Twitter account, Facebook page, and Instagram account.

The hashtag du jour seems to be #relishfrasercoast.

Horsemanship Spectacular

If horses and people riding them are more your thing, local (renowned) horseman Guy McLean will be doing his thing at Susan River Homestead on Saturday evening.

In addition to Guy, his liberty horses and some bush poetry, there’ll be refreshments for sale. Gates open at 4.30 and the show starts at 6pm, so you can pop along after Relish. For more information check out the Susan River Homestead Facebook page.

World’s Greatest PubFest

What better way to recover from overindulging in wine and beer tasting than by drinking more?! Yes indeedy, it’s time for the annual PubFest.

Most years we’re champing at the bit (hee hee, notice how I slipped that in given the above event…. #sorrynotsorry) to regain the world pubcrawl record we won at some point in the past. I haven’t heard a lot of talk about the record this year so I suspect we locals are starting to find the event a bit passe. Who knows? We do have a short attention span and get bored kinda easily.

pubfest-header-logo-2015I didn’t even know what the theme was until I looked up the website (yellow Superheroes incidentally) and… the site’s got ‘Information coming soon…’ type text still there, so….

I’ve never been and have to admit it’s not really my thing; however I know you can get PubFest passports and have access to buses to take you from pub to pub and I suspect it’s great fun if you’re part of a group.

For more info check out the World’s Greatest PubFest website.

Sunday Riverside

It’s that time of the month. Yes really! Sunday Riverside is on again at (outside) the Brolga Theatre near the Mary River. Red Betty will be playing on the River Stage and a dinosaur will be dropping by. As they’re wont to do. #gatecrashingdinosaurs

Pics from FB page

Pics from FB page

I’m ashamed that I’m yet to get to a (first Sunday of the month) Riverside event, but hoping to make it this time. There are some chairs and tables around but you may want to BYO chairs and blankets etc. Food and drinks (including the alcoholic kind! 😉 ) are available for purchase, there are kids games and activities, and entry to the event is free.

The afternoon kicks off at 3pm and check out the Facebook event page for details.

Oh… and most importantly… Monday is a public holiday for most of us so we have a heap of time to recover.

Enjoy!

Making the most of what’s on offer

Last week I submitted my first ever article for publication and amazingly the Fraser Coast Chronicle printed it. Because I am *ahem* somewhat verbose, it was much longer than required and had to be culled. A friend suggested I put the entire thing on this blog, given that it’s got a local flavour, so here we go…

My biggest fear on returning to the Fraser Coast after a couple of decades was that that I’d find the region a cultural wasteland.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly the opera-going type, I dislike most stage shows and don’t hang out at music festivals every second weekend. But Brisbane, like most large cities, always had something on offer. So even if I was happier at home watching DVDs and recovering from my working week I knew I could go to trendy markets, a local festival or catch a comedy show.

Which is why I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found on offer since returning to the Fraser Coast.

I’m not normally a ‘joiner’ but have been busier here than I was in Brisbane. In fact, in my first year back I was kept so busy I even suffered from event-going-fatigue.

IDA

Maryborough Regional Arts Council – foreign film night. May 2015

Many people I meet complain there’s nothing to do and yet when I ask them if they’re heading to Relish Festival, Paddle Out For Whales, Sunday Riverside or Flickerfest they screw up their collective noses.

“I can’t be bothered,” they might say.

Interestingly, it’s not the out-of-town shows or big names performing at the Brolga Theatre catching my attention; it’s the Council and community events I most appreciate.

While I’m more than happy to bag the Fraser Coast Regional Council when (I believe) it deserves it, I love that it’s making an effort to entertain its residents and foster a sense of community and culture. Purists and traditionalists may argue for a focus on roads, rates and rubbish but people won’t stay here if there’s nothing to do. We’re not all great at entertaining ourselves and for many—pubs, clubs and weekend sporting fixtures just don’t cut it.

The first time I attended Gatakers By Night I looked around wondering where this eclectic group of people usually hid. Even my mother who knows half of Maryborough saw a lot of different faces.

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Although you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to a museum, I also recently visited the dinosaur display in the Maryborough City Hall, hoping the Friday night pop-up bar attracted other likeminded Fraser Coasters keen for something different. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t!)

I’ve started attending the foreign film nights run by the Maryborough Arts Council and will be at upcoming events like the Mary Poppins and Whale Festivals with bells on. Or at least with a vague sense of enthusiasm.

Of course not all events are free, but many are and most offer something for everyone. I don’t always appreciate the music on offer at Gatakers by Night but Iove its festive feeling and take the opportunity to have a couple of wines and visit the art gallery each month.

And although (quite frankly) I hate crowds, it’s wonderful to experience the energetic atmosphere of Relish or the Seafood Festival and celebrate with other Fraser Coasters.

Most importantly however, I’m just turning up. I’m making the effort to support what’s on—conscious we may ‘lose it, if we don’t use it’.

Although I’m a well-seasoned whinger it’s not enough to sit back and complain if you can’t be bothered making the most of what’s there. And that’s something even I need to remind myself every so often.

A bit of imagination

A couple of months ago I bought into the Maryborough vs Hervey Bay debate on the Fraser Coast Chronicle’s website. I have to admit however, I can’t even remember the issue under discussion. Traditionally I avoid comments on online news sites as so often they’re full of parochial regulars who can be exceptionally nasty.

I’ve rarely commented myself. I was a government employee for yonks so didn’t feel I could back then and only now I’ve left a comment if I feel particularly chagrined or passionate (which is rare).

In my comment I said I thought it was fair that I buy into the Mbro vs Bay argument, having grown up in Maryborough (until heading off to Uni at 17 years of age) and coming back here to work in the Maryborough Council for a few years; before eventually returning to live in Hervey Bay last year.

I won’t go into my thoughts here, but… I can kinda see both sides and with a foot in each camp I understand everyone’s frustration.

Having said that, I have to admit I find it very confronting to head into the Maryborough CBD. The empty shops and lack of vibrancy is palpable. It wasn’t a thriving metropolis when I was a youngster back in the 70s and 80s, but it was ‘town’ and a place to go.

I know that many blame the advent of shopping centres for the death of the CBD itself, but I’d like to think there’s some way ‘we’ could all live in harmony.

I loved today’s piece by the Chronicle’s new Editor John Grey (recently returned after many years away), who sees Maryborough’s potential.

Like John I find the Gatakers Precinct impressive. I attended the recent Relish Food and Wine Festival and several of the Mary Poppins Festival activities. It occurs to me that there’s some life left in the old girl yet.

“Imagine this city” is the Fraser Coast Council’s initiative to give Maryboroughites and others, a chance to have a say in the town’s future. As I understand it, Council’s in the midst of developing its 2013-2018 Strategic Plan and this is YOUR / OUR opportunity to inform that process.

Check out the consultation process and downloadable survey here, or head along to the workshop this coming Wednesday in the City Hall. (Note that RSVPs are required.)

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I have worked in community development, community engagement, regional development, local government and planning services agencies and roles, but I have no answers. Others might. And, it will be interesting to know what ideas and suggestions people might actually have.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I say the same thing to my mother if / when she ever groans about stuff happening / not happening. Put up or shut up. I know that our voices are not always (or often) heeded and then there are the squeaky wheels… yadda yadda yadda; but it’s harder to complain about an outcome if you don’t even try.

I’m thinking of heading along to the session of Wednesday, so perhaps I’ll see you, or hear from you, there.

Relishing what’s on offer

A couple of weeks ago my blogging and real-life buddy, KangaRue and I had the good fortune to attend Relish Food and Wine Festival at Portside in Maryborough.

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Sadly I didn’t get to any of the other events: The Gourmet Cooking Classes with Villa Cavour B&B; Coast Restaurant’s Wine and Food Degustation Lunch; The Howard Park Degustation dinner at Muddy Waters; or the Banyan Bubbly Breakfast.

We both, however, lapped up everything on offer at the day-long festival itself.

KangaRue and her friends arrived earlier so had already attended some cooking demonstrations;  partaken in some wine tasting; and started the Dan Murphy Food and Wine appreciation session when I caught up with her.

My grandfather (aka Poppie) worked at the Bond Store back in the days it housed barrels of booze, so it seemed apt that James Squire Tales and Ales (beer and food matching) and port and liqueur tastings were on offer there.

A heap of local cafes and food stalls were on hand and a myriad of wineries offering tastings. I was won over by a Crane Wines Sparkling Shiraz – procuring the last two bottles! (I should note that they do deliver, as do many of the other smaller wineries participating in the event.)

I didn’t venture into the XXXX Gold Mini Retreat but it looked to be doing a good business and I loved that you could wander about with your beer or wine from stall to stall or simply sit at a table and lap up the atmosphere and entertainment.

Early rain didn’t deter crowds and I was impressed at the constant throng of people milling about. There was a $10 entry fee (for adults) which also didn’t seem to discourage locals and visitors alike.

With the Mary Ann steam train, kids activities, music and the Relish photo exhibition (and competition) at Gatakers Artspace, there was something for everyone.

relish

As someone who grew up in the borough (as a friend calls it) I love that these kinds of activities are now available. I only wish that – as a teenager growing up in regional Qld in the 1980s – I’d been exposed to similar stuff back then.

Congratulations to all involved. I was very impressed with the activities on offer and the quality of all of the promotional materials and publications. And I will DEFINITELY be making an effort to attend more festival activities next year.

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