How town of Childers is booming in midst of a pandemic
IT'S a quiet little town that packs a punch and Queenslanders are addicted.
"There's no quiet days in Childers anymore," Childers Chamber of Commerce vice president Julie Green says.
The country town just saw one of its busiest school holiday seasons, with carparks full and cafes and other attractions run off their feet.
"It was just wonderful. People were walking up and down the street they were visiting Flying High Bird Sanctuary and Snakes Downunder and the holidays were just wonderful - the whole town was buzzing and it was just that boost of positivity," Ms Green said.
"It was just fabulous to see our town full of families."
But it's not just holiday-makers flocking to the town south of Bundaberg, but those looking for a permanent lifestyle change.
"People are making the Childers change," Ms Green said.
Ms Green said with Childers being a three-and-a-half hour drive from Brisbane and having its own hospital and schools, it was the ideal location for those changing things up.
"We have a wonderful lifestyle here," she said. "We're happy to share it with people."
While many country and regional areas struggle with weekends, Childers is an exception.
"Sunday morning you'd swear it was a weekday, that's been happening for quite a while," Ms Green said.
She says properties are flying off the shelves, with agents scrambling to find more listings for both rentals and sales.
The former Ohana Winery site and a local butcher shop have recently changed hands, meaning new businesses will be setting up soon.
Employment options range from multiple positions available at companies such as Oreco, to mill work and an increase in available farm work because of a reduction in the foreign workforce.
Some are even moving to town to start their own businesses.
Covid-19 forced the shutdown of the annual Childers Festival, but according to Ms Green, it hasn't held the town back at all.
"Our town hasn't gone backwards at all with Covid, if anything, it's gone forward," she said.
"Childers is really buzzing at the moment. You couldn't get a better lifestyle, we're happy to share it.
"We've always been a very positive, proactive community and Covid has proven that."
Childers IGA owner Bruce Mahoney is one member of the community who made the Childers change himself after running a business in Bundaberg.
It's a community he's come to love and the school holiday period provided a welcome boost.
"The town was pumping the whole holidays," he said.
"Talking to our customers, it was Queenslanders supporting Queenslanders.
"They absolutely loved it and people are saying they're going to come back next year."
Mr Mahoney's store has recently undergone refurbishments including the addition of Lotto and he says the popularity of Childers as a destination allowed him to allocate another 100-150 staff hours over the break.
"It was a totally different feeling this holidays because it was all Queenslanders," he said.
"We've shown them something different, we've shown them this is what Central Queensland is about.
"I think it's massive to have that little bit of extra income it allows you to put more staff on.
"It puts cash in everyone's pocket, it's certainly good to see them get that extra pay packet then they spend it at other businesses or buy dinner and it goes full circle."
Mr Mahoney said customers had come from all over the state, bringing a financial boost many small towns can only dream of.
"It's what needs to happen. Money stays in town and everyone gets a share of it," he said.
"It's such a good thing to have an uplift like this in the holidays."
Snakes Downunder's Ian Jenkins said his reptile park and zoo had a terrific time.
"I think Queenslanders just wanted to holiday in Queensland," he said.
"It's only down the road from Brisbane, it's only down the road from Rockhampton.
"I think it's terrific people wanted to get out of the house."
The boost has been a godsend for Mr Jenkins. Earlier in the year, the zoo launched a campaign to adopt an animal to help meet daily costs when the region saw stricter pandemic measures.
The zoo also had a big year of expenditure with new enclosures and the import of a komodo dragon.
So a holiday boost was exactly what the park needed.
"It was constant throughout the day. It was almost never-ending," Mr Jenkins said.
"It's been terrific. I think we seem to have done the right thing in Queensland."
People from Brisbane, Mackay, Gladstone and other regions across the state made the trip.
"Kids still love the crocs, snakes and lizards. Older people like the meerkats but kids love them as well," Mr Jenkins said.
Attractions in Childers include animal parks, country pubs, cafes, the seaside suburb of Woodgate, a military museum, pharmacy museum, wineries, Mammino gourmet ice cream and the vintage Paragon Theatre that feels like stepping into another era.
With many expert think tanks predicting rural and regional lifestyle changes to boom as more industries go online and people explore their options, perhaps Childers is at the forefront of this trend.
Given the open and forward-thinking nature of the town, it's no surprise Childers is on the front foot.