Carnival of Flowers – Celebrating 70 Years

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It’s the first weekend of the September School Holidays, the flowers are out in full bloom and the local parks and gardens are crowded with visitors and tour buses. It must be Carnival time.

The Carnival of Flowers is Toowoomba’s premiere event of the year, a festival that celebrates flowers, local wine and food, and Australian music. It is one of the longest running Australian events, garnering a number of tourism awards and this year it celebrates 70 years, so it will be a very special celebration indeed. For months gardeners have been hard at work in the local parks to prepare the floral displays, and despite the exceedingly dry conditions of the drought, they have done a fabulous job. The floral displays are just beautiful.

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The very first Carnival was held in 1950 and attracted a crowd of around 50,000 to see a three mile procession led by a team of bullocks. Following the hardship of World War Two, the Carnival was envisioned as an event that would encourage economic activity and promote Toowoomba’s reputation as the Garden City. Sadly, I don’t think bullocks are a feature of the Carnival parade anymore, but Toowoomba businesses and community groups put in many hours of hard work to prepare their floats and costumes and put on a spectacular display of colour, music and all things floral. Last year Dan was in the parade on the Yellow Bridge float and he will be again this year, although this time they are just walking the route so I hope they have someone fit and fast to keep up with him!

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Every year the Carnival seems to get bigger and bigger with a variety of events and activities over ten days to keep people of all ages entertained. In keeping with the 70th celebrations there will be 70 different experiences this year for visitors. The Food and Wine Festival has become a popular addition to the Carnival, providing opportunities for visitors to sample Queensland wares while enjoying some iconic Australian entertainment, like John Farnham, Dragon and Bjorn Again. Other events include:

  •  Gardening Competition for Local Gardeners
  •  Photography Competition 
  • Garden Tours
  • Steam Train Rides
  • Talking Pub Tour
  • Carnival Memorabilia Display

We will be heading into the city centre today for the parade but we will be taking advantage of the free shuttle bus service rather than fight the crowds to find a parking spot. We can hop on the bus a short distance from where we live and it takes us into town to Queens Park, the hub of the Carnival. Here visitors can enjoy all the usual carnival entertainment such as amusement rides and side show alley. The Carnival also runs a Park Shuttle service that takes visitors between the three main garden displays at Picnic Point, Queens Park and Laurel Bank Park. Last year the Carnival attracted a crowd of over 255,000 so the shuttle bus is an excellent idea.

From humble beginnings the Carnival of Flowers has grown into a spectacular event that showcases the Toowoomba region, cementing its reputation as the Garden City and providing inspiration for all the novice gardeners among us. If you are planning a trip to Queensland, keep the Carnival of Flowers in mind.

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Carnival of Flowers 1950 – 2019

 

Laurel Bank Park

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 Increasingly we are becoming a nation of city dwellers. The migration from the bush to the coast in search of study and employment opportunities expands the urban sprawl of our major cities and empties our once thriving rural towns. But the city can be a busy, noisy and polluted place, especially in its heart – the CBD. There is the stop-start drone of the city traffic, the constant flashing of traffic lights, the scream of ambulances racing to an emergency and the occasional train rumbling down the track. 

The pressure and pace of city life can drain our energy and lead to serious health issues. However, recent studies have recognised the healing benefits of time spent in the outdoors. Spending time outdoors doesn’t just make us feel better but can also reduce our risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, stress and high blood pressure. The busy pace of city life can make it difficult to find time for a nature break but urban green spaces like parks and gardens may provide a solution. They are not only aesthetically pleasing but also provide people with places to exercise and socialise.   

Luckily for us here in Toowoomba, we are blessed with many urban green spaces. Toowoomba is not named the Garden City for its concrete jungle, but for the parks and gardens scattered around the suburbs and right in the city centre itself. Laurel Bank Park is one of these. Close to the CBD,  Laurel Bank Park provides a beautiful and peaceful escape for city dwellers and workers.

Laurel Bank Park was originally owned by Samuel George Stephens. I gather he was a keen gardener because he not only designed the gardens’ original layout but was affectionately called the “Man of Flowers”.  In 1932 Stephens generously donated the park to the people of Toowoomba and left its care in the hands of the local council, who still do a marvellous job taking care of it today. Some of the garden beds date back prior to 1943 and the Commemoration Gates on West Street have been in place since 1934.

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It is a beautifully designed park with walkways, arches, a fountain, a scented garden and at this time of the year, beautiful floral displays, including a mass planting of tulips. During the week people come to the park for lunch and a leisurely stroll. On the weekends they gather for picnics and barbecues, weddings and other family or community events. During November it is a popular place for Year 12 formal photos. It is a lovely place all year round but especially now in the lead up to the Carnival of Flowers.

Laurel Bank Park is not just for the adults. Children can expend their energy in the playground, climb the raised viewing platform for a better view or rest quietly on Thomas the Tank Engine. It is a park we know quite well because it is located right next door to Yellow Bridge, where Dan joins his mates everyday for a range of group and individual activities. It is the perfect place for them to go for a walk, play some games or gather for a BBQ lunch.

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If you are ever visiting Toowoomba for the Carnival of Flowers or just for a holiday any time of the year, Laurel Bank Park is a must see. Bring a picnic hamper, stroll around the gardens and stop to smell the flowers.