Our history

Historic photo of the Warrandyte Festival parade.Legend has it that the first festival was celebrated in April 1977. An initiative of the local environment league and historical society, a group of dedicated local volunteers held a street parade.

In the 1980’s, APEX, Lions and Rotary became involved. APEX built and financed the Stiggants Reserve stage and Rotary began their Art Show.

Local schools soon got in on the act, including Warrandyte Primary and their esteemed music teacher, Kevin O’Mara. Kevin established a school bush band and got the kids singing songs about Warrandyte and being proud of living in the bush. Kevin and his band, Paradiddle, also played the grand finale on Sunday night for many years. Some say they even had more come-backs than Dame Nellie Melba!

The 80’s saw the introduction of the ‘Yarra Yobbo’s’, a series of events featuring sulo bin races, rolling pin and gumboot throwing competitions and the original Undie 500, a race around the reserve and down the giant water slide.

Whilst the Yarra Yobbos is no longer contested, the Billy Cart Derby and Duck Race, also created in the 1980’s, still remain strong after more than 20 years.

Heralding the lead-up to the Festival, 60 large canvas banners were hand-painted by local community groups and schools. Organised by artists from the Warrandyte Arts Association, the banners were displayed from power poles, a tradition that is still looked forward to today!

The Youth Stage officially got a gig at the local football ground, giving garage bands the opportunity to perform. Now housed in the Community Centre and kicking off the Festival on the Friday night, the youth stage remains a platform for local bands to launch.

To compliment the river setting, the 80’s also featured raft, LiLo and canoe races, all hotly contested by local water enthusiasts.

The 1990’s saw a pie throwing competition and talent quest. Young people were offered the opportunity to learn circus skills and perform during the Festival.

Market umbrellas were painted by local artists and auctioned off at the end of the weekend to raise fund for the next year’s events.

It was also during this decade the Committee started selecting a King and Queen of Warrandyte for each Festival. Different Monarchs are chosen each year for their outstanding contributions to the Warrandyte community.

The 2000’s saw the introduction of the beer brewing competition, the Grand Read and the Family Bike Ride among other things.

The Parade is still a major feature of the Festival, giving children and adults alike the opportunity to showcase their kinder, school, sporting and hobby groups.  Entrants in the Parade are encouraged to celebrate the theme each year by decorating floats, using props and wearing costumes.  As in the early days, the joke still ripples through the adoring crowds that there are more people in the Parade than watching it!

The children of those early founders are now adults themselves. Many still live in Warrandyte and their kids now participate in the Parade, representing their local school or sporting group. Some even volunteer on the Festival Committee to continue the celebration of living in Warrandyte that their parents fostered!