We found a dozen of the most weird and wonderful festivals and events taking place across this wide brown land.
Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta – July
Lutz Frankenfeld and Paul Rice-Chapman created the Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta back in 1974 to promote the local Swan Breweries. Today this quirky event is marked on thousands of calendars. The day is filled with plenty of wacky activities, such as thong-throwing and tug-of-war comps, but the most iconic event is the Battle of Mindil. Weeks before, competitors build boats of all shapes and sizes – all made entirely of beer cans (or soft drinks, if they’re underage). The battle is a race to find a hidden object in the water and return it to the shore. Water sprayers, flour bombs and pirate tactics are used to fight off other boats with an ‘anything goes’ policy. Very Darwin.
Parkes Elvis Festival – January
It is all about the rock ‘n’ roll king in rural Parkes, which hosts this huge annual Elvis festival. Festival-goers in all manner of Elvis-themed costumes, complete with popped collars, rhinestones and larger-than-life wigs, flood the streets to celebrate Presley’s legacy over a full five days. And as if the theme isn’t wacky enough itself, the activities just add to the goofiness – including a Miss Priscilla Dinner Competition, look-alike contests, a busking competition and a street parade. There’s even an opportunity for a Vegas-style vow renewals led by an Elvis-lookaliker. A plethora of memorabilia and super-fans fill the city streets for one of Australia’s biggest festivals.
Broken Heel Festival – September
Celebrating the birthday of film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, this vibrant festival celebrates with everything drag at the glamorous bus’s spiritual home. Once a year, the dress code is fabulous at the Palace Hotel in Broken Hill. This is where the film characters stayed while filming various scenes. There’s cabaret, comedy, live music and social activities providing a constant array of glitter-soaked entertainment. Visitors can shop until they drop at the drag markets before heading to Town Square for the Main Drag in Drag Parade. Everyone is sure to be wearing their best feather boas and sparkling from head to toe for one of the country’s most glamorous festivals.
Bendigo Bank Tunarama Festival – January
The action-packed Bendigo Bank Tunarama Festival sees local market stalls selling the freshest seafood on the coast. Visitors will find all manner of competitions that are just as much fun to watch as they are to compete in. From prawn peeling to keg rolling and a slippery pole challenge, the fun just doesn’t stop. It’s not hard to see how the festival got its name, with its biggest (and goofiest) event being the famous Tuna Toss World Championship. People from all around line up for the chance to see how far they can throw a 10-kilogram fish. The winner goes home with a cash prize, trophy and a whole lot of pride.
Chinchilla Melonfest – February
Held in the melon capital of Australia – Chinchilla – this is a funky festival made for anyone who loves a good watermelon. Melonfest is filled with hysterical competitions all related to the watermelon industry. People hold on to their melons in the melon dash for cash; slip and slide across a tarp of smashed melons wearing watermelon skis; race chariots assembled with melon packing cartons; and sling one another across a mat covered in melon in the melon bungy. With a belly full of melon, no one leaves this four-day festival with a clean wardrobe.
Goomeri Pumpkin Festival – May
This whimsical day is all about pumpkins, pumpkins and even more pumpkins. The festival’s biggest event is the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll. More than 600 people queue up for their chance to send a pumpkin rolling and splattering down Policeman’s Hill. The pumpkins that don’t meet their end at the base are used in various recipes: pumpkin pie, scones, bread and soup are all made from a secret festival recipe. Meanwhile, everyone is sure to look bold wearing green and orange for the very fashion-forward Pumpkin Pageant.
Alice Springs Camel Cup – July
This type of race is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind for most Aussies when they think of a day at the races. A bet made in 1970 between two mates, Noel Fullerton and Keith Mooney-Smith, has today turned into this annual camel races held in Alice. Dust flys about all day as spectators watch nine unconventional events. Camels are unique animals, known to have rather stubborn personalities. This may not be the best-case scenario for the riders – but this sure makes it entertaining for the crowd. It’s one of many camel racing festivals in the country, with Uluru hosting one of the most popular.
Rotary Henley on Todd Regatta – August
The Rotary Henley on Todd Regatta is a one-of-a-kind event, taking place as it does in a waterless riverbed. Attendees are encouraged to join in on the many silly activities throughout the day. Five team members pull a sixth on a boogie board as fast as they can along the sandy track. Paddles are replaced with shovels in the Oxford Tubs event. There are plenty of other races which allow teams or soloists to sprint as fast as they can while carrying a vessel. But the biggest hype is reserved for the Battle of the Boats. Three vessels, built on four-wheel drives, enter combat armed with powerful water cannons and flour mortars. No water is no problem for this quirky regatta.
Australian Wife Carrying Competition (Singleton Show) – September
The Singleton Show takes the phrase ‘picking up a woman’ literally. Surely one of Australia’s wackiest festivals, the main event is the Australian Wife Carrying Competition. The husbands haul their wives over their shoulders and trek through a 250-metre obstacle course, trying to beat other couples to the finish line. The course is comprised of limbo bars, hurdles, a watercourse and a sand trap – sure to challenge even the fittest of competitors. This competition is not for the faint of heart and should only be attempted by those who can have a laugh after being dropped on their heads or dunked in a muddy pool of water. It’s a hilarious and thrilling event that gets better and better every year.
Deni Ute Muster – October
Every year almost 20,000 people come together in Deniliquin (better known as Deni) to celebrate all things Aussie – with the ute as the main attraction. The event campgrounds fill with utes as far as the eye can see. There are always plenty of attendees showing off Akubras covered with cattle tags and getting their Driza-Bones or stubbies covered in mud from many-a-burn-out. The air is filled with dirt and live country music throughout the day of bull riding and ute competitions. The muster is an event like no other – representative of the culture and vibrancy of rural Australia. Pro tip: don’t wear white!
Know of any more kooky festivals around the country? Let us know!