Feature

The little idea that just grew and grew

Tina Greenhalgh with Andrew Wilson, Julie Houston, Tiegan Johnson, Tony Ward, Nathan Burton and Kristie Ward are Ready for Pub Fest.
Tina Greenhalgh with Andrew Wilson, Julie Houston, Tiegan Johnson, Tony Ward, Nathan Burton and Kristie Ward are Ready for Pub Fest. Valerie Horton

IT'S the event that draws thousands to the Heritage City.

A chance for family and friends to come together and for Maryborough pubs to be put on show.

But how did the much-loved World's Greatest Pub Fest begin?

It began with Back to the Banyan in 2005, coinciding with the Best of Brass competition and a celebration of Maryborough's 100th anniversary.

Pubfest - the view from behind the bar at the Central.
Pubfest - the view from behind the bar at the Central. Alistair Brightman

This year, revellers will enjoy a ceremony to mark the 10th year of Pub Fest near the banyan tree in Queens Park.

The newspaper editor

Retired Fraser Coast Chronicle editor Nancy Bates said the World's Greatest Pub Crawl, as it was then known, grew out of the Back to the Banyan celebrations.

Nancy, former Maryborough City councillor Anne Nioa and journalist Jocelyn Watts were part of the group who conceived the pub crawl.

"It was a series of ideas that evolved," she said.

"It was a fun idea, we had no idea how big it would be."

For Nancy, it was also about endorsing the pubs of her much-loved Maryborough.

"It was more to promote the pubs and keep them all in Maryborough," she said.

In 2011 there was a threat of cancellation, with concerns the event was promoting a binge drinking culture.

"They didn't see the fun and friendliness," Nancy countered.

Pubfest - judging central - Scuba Steves from Hervey Bay.
Pubfest - judging central - Scuba Steves from Hervey Bay. Alistair Brightman

Nancy said Anne Nioa made a herculean effort during the first years to keep the event going.

"She was really quite remarkable," she said.

The council event planner

For Fraser Coast Regional Council event co-ordinator Kim Griffith, the pub crawl was her first Fraser Coast event when she started working for council in 2005.

"Basically it was a back to the Banyan reunion and then there was the idea of a pub crawl after it," she said.

Kim went along with her boss to the first event planning meeting.

"They were all talking a very different language to me, about the Cri, the P.O., the Aussie, the banyan," she said.

"So I'm sitting there going what language are they talking? Is there something I don't know?

"After the meeting I said to my boss what is a banyan? Why are they tying yellow ribbons on a banyan tree?"

Kim's boss took his new employee on a tour, educating her about all things Maryborough.

"I think it came about as an idea to attract people back into the area to say 'come back to see your family, see your friends, it's a long weekend and make the most of it'," she said.

Kim said the first pub crawl was a fantastic two-day event, starting with Back to the Banyan and ending with the pub crawl.

The Rambogan Super Sailors team of Ryan McGrath and brothers Danny, Sam and Peter Scotney at PubFest.
The Rambogan Super Sailors team of Ryan McGrath and brothers Danny, Sam and Peter Scotney at PubFest. Alistair Brightman

The councillor

With purple streaks in her hair, Anne Nioa will be among many embracing this year's World's Greatest Pub Fest theme of Magic and Fantasy, in support of Alzheimer's Australia.

This year, she is free to relax and enjoy the day but back in the mid 2000s Anne was at the forefront of the event, as chairwoman and city councillor.

"We wanted to have an event to bring people back to Maryborough as a reunion," she said.

"Jocelyn Watts actually came up with the idea of having the pub crawl."

Anne was a Maryborough city councillor from 2004 to 2008 and on the Fraser Coast Council from 2008 to 2012. She also chaired the event during its infant years.

"We decided we needed to sell the (official crawl) cards to raise money, because it was always a cost neutral event for council, because it was terribly politically incorrect.

Worlds Greatest Pub Fest .Tim Stebbings, David Foxell, Jaime Howard, Tracey Lakin, Ben Bowers, Krista Bowers, Wayne and Lorraine Foxell.
Worlds Greatest Pub Fest .Tim Stebbings, David Foxell, Jaime Howard, Tracey Lakin, Ben Bowers, Krista Bowers, Wayne and Lorraine Foxell. Robyne Cuerel

"To get people to buy the cards we thought we'd attempt a Guinness world record, so that's how it began."

Anne said the group had a vision that it would become an iconic event for the region, "which I believe it has become", she said.

Anne said the Pub Fest was an intrinsic part of Maryborough.

"Maryborough has always been renowned for the pubs.

"A lot of them have still got great character and stories about them."

Anne said she knew of people who came from all over the world to experience the Fest.

"It's like a huge costume party. It's like Mardi Gras in Rio or Sydney ,everyone's just happy.

"Once they put on a costume they take on a different persona and they're there to have a good time."

Anne said she hoped Maryborough could reclaim the World's Greatest Pub Crawl title again this year.

Worlds Greatest Pub Fest- Liz Stark, Amber Kassuke and Kristen Stiller on their way to the Westside tavern.
Worlds Greatest Pub Fest- Liz Stark, Amber Kassuke and Kristen Stiller on their way to the Westside tavern. Robyne Cuerel

The dedicated fan

Berny Thompson has never missed a Pub Fest.

Since 2005, the event has been a yearly highlight.

She said the first year was really exciting.

"We got a group together and we were the Jackie's Angels," she said.

"It was great fun."

One year, Berny and her gang dressed as Smurfs and landed themselves on a billboard near Tiaro.

In other years their eye-catching costumes have included everything from Flintstones, Smurfs and Pirates and have scored them a place on the local news.

Berny said she was disappointed when there was talk about cancelling the event she loved.

"It brings so much to Maryborough," Berny said.

"It's such a great event, it brings everyone in and everyone is so social.

"I have so much fun, there's never any trouble, everyone has so much fun."

Look out for Berny at this year's Pub Fest with her group of witches and pimps.

Topics:  anniversary, history, maryborough, pub fest




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