EACH year, 70,000 people flock to Gladstone at Easter for one of the largest self-funded, free community festivals in Australia.
The Gladstone Harbour Festival, from April 17 to 24, is in its 49th year and gets bigger and better each time.
What was once a one-day celebration to greet the winners of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race as they crossed the finishing line has evolved into a week-long festival with something for everyone.
Gladstone Harbour Festival general manager Michelle Stafford said many visitors from all over Australia made the annual pilgrimage.
“We have volunteers who come up from Brisbane every year to help at the festival. They're so dedicated, they've missed Easter with their families for many years now,” she said.
Ms Stafford has been involved with the festival for five years and her staff jokingly refer to her as “Mrs Festival”.
Major sponsors the Gladstone Ports Corporation and Gladstone Regional Council have supported the festival for many years.
Ms Stafford said popular festival favourites included the NRG Great Raft Race, the Rio Tinto Alcan's street parade, presented by Midday Rotary and the GLNG and Zinc's Talent Quest and Battle of the Bands.
“The Battle of the Bands was full already just over a week after the entry forms were made available. It's a fantastic response,” she said.
The NRG Great Raft Race gets the competitive juices flowing between the local businesses and industry, not just the sports clubs and community groups.
“They like to throw out the challenge to one another, which makes it competitive and fun,” Ms Stafford said.
A quick look through the diary of events reveals that the festival has something for everyone.
The variety of entertainment on offer varies from a '70s disco tribute show, to the Magic of the South Pacific Dancers and a Queen Tribute Show.
Street entertainers perform every night.
Finish the weekend off with QAL's Jazz'n Shiraz evening on the Sunday, featuring Kate Ceberano and Carl Riseley. To participate in any of these events, visit http://www.gladstonefestival.com/index.html.
Entries close on Friday.
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