“IT WOULD take more than a few showers to put out this fire,” was a comment voiced by a local in reference to the Meeniyan on Fire festival – and if the numbers attending and their enthusiasm was anything to judge by, then that was the overall opinion of visitors and locals alike to the fourth annual community festival.
Perhaps Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, was smiling on Meeniyan, as for the fourth consecutive year of this winter event, the weather held out and there were only a couple of light showers which saw people shelter briefly under verandas, before venturing out again just minutes later into the sunshine.
Locals and those from other South Gippsland towns came in droves, and there were also plenty of visitors from elsewhere such as the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne and suburbs, as well as some interstate visitors who, while staying with friends and family made a point of coming along to the Meeniyan on Fire festival.
Now in its fourth year, the inaugural festival was held in 2011 by the Meeniyan Tourism & Traders Association (MTTA) to celebrate the town’s full complement of shops, following the opening of the new IGA Supermarket, and each successive year sees the festival – and the town – grow bigger and better!
“Members of the MTTA have worked hard to make it even better in 2014, and with the help of fantastic sponsors – the Shire of South Gippsland, the Meeniyan Progress Assocation and the Toora & District Community Bank®, Foster Branch & Meeniyan Agency, have been able to organise a day of fun for all the family with so many free activities that parents barely had to open their wallets,” said Marty Thomas of the MTTA.
The celebrations began at 9am with the many stallholders lining the street, offering a great variety of goods which ranged from plants to paintings, clothes to cakes, hand-painted glassware to handmade felted goods, jewellery to jams, and everything in between.
The horse and cart made a return to Whitelaw Street, carrying young and old on a circuit around the main street – past Tanderra Park up to Meeniyan Art Gallery, then across the road from Moo’s and down past the Meeniyan Hotel.
Live entertainment added to the great atmosphere, with songs from the Tarwin Valley Primary School Singers, Accoustic Kitchen, Beggs To Differ, The Allstars Jazz Band and Karavana Flamenca.
Koko the Clown and MC Meagz (Meaghan Harris) kept the children amused, as did the Snow Queen who effortlessly drifted along on stilts, standing head and shoulders above the crowd. As always, face painting, the petting zoo and jumping castle were very popular.
This year, for the first time, the CFA Smoke House fire safety activity, along with the local South Gippsland Scout Group’s Abseiling Wall, was located at the new Meeniyan Fire Station.
“This was an excellent opportunity for locals to view the new facilities and served to help reinforce the involvement of the CFA in community events,” said Meeniyan CFA member Geoff Cooling.
The CFA members also manned a sausage sizzle and were very happy with the consistent number of customers who lined up for a ‘snag on the barbie’ throughout the day.
Committee members of the Meeniyan Area Community Shop (MACS) were very pleased with takings for day which doubled that of a regular Saturday, keeping the staff of five very busy. While visitors to the town may think that the wonderful MACS opened until 4pm especially for the festival, it’s worth noting that it is open six days per week – Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm and the monies raised go directly back into the community.
Tickets for the Monster Hamper Raffle sold like hotcakes, with the winning entry drawn outside the Meeniyan Agency being that of Sienna Bell of Buffalo.
In celebration of Meeniyan Town Hall’s 75th anniversary, a children’s movie afternoon was held on Friday in the lead-up to the festival featuring some movies that today’s youngsters may not be overly familiar with, such as those of Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin, in addition to the perennially popular Bugs Bunny. These movies were presented absolutely free of charge, and although there were a small number attending, the children who came along thoroughly enjoyed these old classics, as did the 25 adults on Friday evening who were treated to a Charlie Chaplin movie.
Also in honour of the hall’s anniversary was the memorabilia display held in the foyer during the festival on Saturday. The display was organised by members of the Meeniyan Hall Committee (more formally known as the Meeniyan Mechanics’ Institute Committee) – president Brian Hoskins, with help from fellow members Geoff Harris, who arranged the display of photos, and Richard Powell, (treasurer) who prepared computer presentation of photos the various stages of the hall’s recent refurbishment and of the many and varied events and performances held at the hall over the years.
Just a few of the many events held at the hall in the last 75 years include performances by the Meeniyan Amateur Dramatic Society (MADS), concerts presented by the Lyrebird Arts Council, Anzac Day services, Madhatters’ Breakfasts and Tavern Nights – and posters used in the advertising of the musical events made a striking display.
Items within the display are normally held in the collection of the Committee, but for this occasion, were shared with members of the public and included items documenting the hall’s history, such as old newspaper articles chronicling the fire of August 1938 which claimed the original hall, and debenture certificates which financed the building of the current hall. The original building had been insured for only £1000 and along with the debentures, enabled the current hall to be built for £2500 just 11 months later in July 1939.
To round off a fantastic day, The McCrackens performed at the Meeniyan Town Hall, drawing around 70 people who thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic ‘country grass’ music performed by the six extremely talented musicians, including Gavin Westaway and Fiona Watt.
“The night was a roaring success; the members of The McCrackens are excellent musicians with a fantastic repertoire,” said organiser Eric Mould.
“Everyone stayed on until stumps, requesting an encore performance, which the band graciously performed,” he added.
In summing up a fantastic day, Marty Thomas said that the members of the MTTA are very grateful to all the volunteers, to the local traders for their participation, to the sponsors, the performers, to the members of the community and to everyone who came along, helping to celebrate a wonderful town and community.
“The numbers seem to be pretty consistent with last year and it was great to see people linger on until around 2.30pm to enjoy every minute of the festival – and the MTTA is so pleased with the general response that the members are already turning their thoughts to Meeniyan on Fire 2015,” Marty said.