I recently dropped by Melbourne’s Labour Day weekend Moomba Festival, held mid-March at Birrarung Marr and Alexandra Gardens on the banks of the iconic Yarra River.
The Moomba Festival is pretty darn big as Melbourne’s larger community festival with events spanning over four days including a massive carnival, kids crafts and workshops, live music, fireworks and sporting competitions.
Cost: IT’S FO’ FREE (but food and rides can get pricey)
When: Annually, mid-March (11-14 March 2016)
Where: Melbourne, Australia
Who: Great for the whole family
Highlights: International wake boarding competitions, the Moomba Parade, Birdman Rally
Organizers: The City of Melbourne
We had a busy weekend so didn’t get the chance to see everything in person, but after hearing how big it was from our friends, we dropped in on Sunday afternoon to see what it was all about.
While it was crawling with Melbournites of all ages, it wasn’t at all uncomfortably crowded and we were greeted with a rare day of beautiful sunny weather (Melbourne is known for having extremely unpredictable and fluctuating temperatures). Unfortunately, we arrived just after the finish of the Birdman Rally, an exciting and unique Moomba tradition where the competitors dress up as birds and literally try to fly to raise money for charity. They’re dressed on a variety of light-hearted categories like who can fly the furthest, best costume, funniest moment, best landing and best hang time.
Instead, we walked around the river in the afternoon and watched the woman’s trick wake boarding semi-finals which were pretty awesome and made me want to buy a boat and a ride a wave. Watching the girls catch so much air with the Melbourne skyline in the background was beautiful. It was inspiring to see such young (as young as 12 years old!), strong women take on such a difficult sport and make it look so easy!
The festival was designed to flow around the river, making it possible to see the competitions from almost any place on the grounds, but there was a large seating area on the south-bank of the river by the South Carnival. Perfect for grabbing some food at one of the yummy-looking international food vendors in the Main Arena and camping out there for the day!
Unsurprisingly, the food at the event wasn’t the cheapest (you’re looking at spending $12-15 on a small plate) but they offer a wide selection of international foods from local businesses. Sink your teeth into an artisan German Schnitzel burger, sample a variety of lightly-fried Chinese Bao dumplings, munch on gourmet Italian Arancini (cheesy rice balls) or grab a bag of fresh “American” donuts.
If water sports aren’t your thing, there was also tons of stuff going on at the skate park including a BMX Pro Competition.
What’s interesting for me is the lack of social media presence at this event. In Canada, social media is taking over the experiential scene, and it’s rare to see even the smallest events without at least it’s own hashtag. Australians seem to be slower adopters of this use of technology, but the Moomba Festival 2016 had a moderate following on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out that the hashtag was #LoveMelbourneLoveMoomba, when it should have only been one minute. It’s a bit of a mouthful and awkward on a touchscreen, but evokes a sense of Melbourne-pride, which is powerful. They could have made it clearer across all social media channels to increase engagement with the brand – which as of Monday, March 14 -could have been better with only 183 tags on Instagram.
From my point of view, it seemed like a great festival. Very popular with families and 20-somethings alike, and seemed to be well-organised, clean, and energetic. The hefty prices for food and rides were to be expected, but the abundance of free attractions outweighed any disappointment in this regard.
If you’re ever in Melbourne over the Labour Day weekend, the Moomba Festival is definitely worth a visit!
My photography doesn’t look quite as shiny as you’re used to? You’re absolutely right! My little travel notebook computer is on it’s last days and I can’t use my Adobe Lightroom any more – THE HORROR!! Please excuse the “rawness” of my photos until I’m back on track again. Thank you!