The Easter long weekend saw the 47th occurrence of the Tarra Festival at Yarram and Port Albert! Located in the south-east coastal communities in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia the event is celebrated over four days with plenty of fun and feeding during which the regular population of about 5,000 attracts 10,000-plus visitors to the annual Street Parade and more than 18,000 to events in total. It is one of the district’s major injections of funds for community groups for the whole year.
It all starts on Good Friday, with a church service in the afternoon, to get things going on the right note, followed in the evening by the opening of the Rotary Easter Art Show at the Regent Theatre (one of the few remaining examples of these classic structures, built to this formula during the 1930s). This is a well-supported show, with up to 250 works on display, not just from local artists, but from painters all over Victoria and even beyond occasionally; the standards of work are very high and as much as 10 per cent of the works on show will often be bought by visitors! A great opportunity to pick up a souvenir or two.
There are usually several other, more minor functions around the town on Friday evening, especially in local restaurants and bars, which often put on special meals (to a large extent seafood — something the Yarram district has in abundance due to its close proximity to the sea and a fleet of professional fishermen! You really don’t know what fresh seafood is like until you live somewhere really close to the source.
The Street Parade takes place on the Saturday, and the main highway through the town is closed to all traffic from about 10am to accommodate the procession, which commences around 11am. Many participants from around the town take part, building ‘floats’ mounted onto the back of trucks or marching along holding banners or even one regular group of about six people, all riding ‘penny-farthing’ bicycles. All the local schools take part of course, as well as staff from the local hospital, various businesses around the area and church organisations. The whole main street is packed with people and you’ll find the procession takes about an hour to complete.
While the procession is going on, all sorts of other efforts are being made along the route as well, with the Rotary Club doing its ‘wheel-spins’ for meat trays (in addition to its art show, which continues daily over the weekend); a number of entrepreneurs set up their own little businesses at the market, hoping to sell jewellery, socks, tools, ice-cream, back-scratchers and all sorts of other wares.
After the Street Parade a large portion of the crowd disappears into the bars and cafes dotted along the main street to enjoy the local food and drink. Others however, head towards the Recreation Reserve for the family fun to be had there. This includes petting zoos, pony rides, a large-scale Easter egg hunt and othr activities. At the same time, there are numerous small exhibitions etc., going on throughout the town, some open to visitors until quite late in the evening.
Sunday is a quieter day when everyone appears to relax a little after Saturday’s major efforts. The two most important events are services in all the town’s churches and Pancakes in the Park, a breakfast put on by the Yarram Red Cross, serving, as the name suggests pancakes, and bacon and eggs. The rest of the day appears to be spent in quiet meditation, or perhaps you’d like to take in some of the Really Living Expo that focuses on natural therapies, sustainability and a life lived in harmony with the environment.
Finally, there’s Easter Monday, which is the day of the Monster Market at the Yarram Showgrounds. Stallholders from all over Gippsland turn up for this, hoping to sell homemade, handicrafts, plants, patent medicines, clothing — in fact almost anything legal, and some that can look a bit suspicious too! It’s always well supported, so long as the weather is good. It is also where the last rush to raise a bit of cash takes place and it’s great fun.
The Tarra Festival is also very important because it actually marks the last public holiday before winter sets in — there will be no more until the Melbourne Cup in November, when summer starts to warm things up again. As is typical of many country towns all over Australia, the Tarra Festival is something you don’t see in the city, which is why so many visitors flock to the region for Easter.