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The Willunga Almond Blossom Festival History...

Dancing Under the Big Gum Trees...

1969 saw the first Almond Blossom Balls in Willunga. Tickets were so sought after that we queued from 6.30am if we wished to take a party.

The Ball was held in a Big Top with a floor that can be best described "as a little up hill and down dale". Terrific fun!
We usually had two bands, so dancing was continuous.

With friends from Adelaide and Hope Forest we gathered a party of about 40 and fortified with a little mead, we set off to join many others, in the big tent, dressed in our best.

I think we were seated at tables and at the right time a lovely supper [which I think we all helped to supply] was brought to our tables.

It was great to be a part of the Ball, people came from a wide area, but back in those days everybody seemed to know everybody.

It was we think, the beginning of a great community event for our district.

The organisers of the Almond Blossom Festival and their aims should be congratulated and remembered.

Bob & Jac Bishop.


Vision and Commitment Pay Off...

Reminiscing 1969-1979 by Margaret Offe, member of the hall committee and one of the original volunteers...

The need... Willunga Almond Festival was begun by people of the Willunga District in 1969, to raise the substantial amount of money required to replace the very elderly and inadequate Willunga Town Hall and the galvanised iron supper room (booth), toilets and other facilities.

Almonds... Almonds were the primary pursuit at the time, over 1300 acres providing a magnificent spectacle of pink and white blossom during July that was attracting increasing numbers of visitors.  An Almond Blossom Festival was deemed the best way to capitalise on these trends.

In the beginning... The first Almond Blossom Festival Balls were held in the old hall with supper in the booth, but these were soon outgrown.

The South Australian Tourist Bureau initially insisted the Willunga people were incapable of running such an event and for many years, gave little support.  Fair days were originally chosen according to the season, to ensure visitors came at the height of the blossom.  Later when the South Australian Tourist Bureau accepted us, the festival became set at the last week of July, so it could be included in the bureau's calendar.

The Festival Ball... The highlight of the festival was the Festival Ball and the crowning of the Almond Blossom Queen.  The girls raised money though dinners, fashion parades, street stalls and raffles. Later, Miss Almond Blossom and Miss Charity were chosen at a cocktail party prior to the Ball with the help of VIP judges.

 Learning curve... The early committees had much to learn, coordinating the many groups and events, working out effective catering practices and so on.  One year the committee was devastated by the flu.  Another time, one member involved with catering, much to the frustration of the rest of the committee, kept buying in extra food, so stressed was he by the possibility of a shortfall!  The Marquee one year, was not very water tight and heavy rain produced the hilarious use of umbrellas by the visitors inside as they tried to protect themselves and their food... and stir up the organisers!

  How do you tell if the barbequed chops were too tough?  Look at the paper plates afterwards and see if they were cut though!  Fair Day stalls were run by local clubs and on wet days, baskets of unsold sausages, bread rolls etc were hawked around the thin crowd.

Establishment...  Within a few years, the Festival week became so popular that over 500 barbeque lunches a day were being cooked by the local Lions Club along with a similar number of Devonshire teas.  This work was all done by a group of local volunteers.

Bus Tours... Over several weeks, dozens of buses toured the district's 100's of acres of blossom, especially on Sundays. Initially, Devonshire teas were provided by the Willunga High School.  All the scones and jam were home made.  If trade exceeded supply, extras were hurriedly baked in the school's home economics ovens!

Festival Weekend… The Old Town Hall and booth quickly became unable to cope with the 600 plus attendees at the Ball and a large marquee, tables, chairs and crockery had to be hired.  Six hundred hungry people meant the heating of 1800 pastries (initially in a very antiquated oven).  Locals baked magnificent cakes and turned dozens of loaves into sandwiches. Volunteers would be cleaning up from the Ball from early next morning and preparing for Sunday's Fair Day activities.

 Delicious home made almond soup became the trade mark Willunga Festival delicacy.  The Street Parade with the Almond Blossom Entrants taking pride of place, quickly became one of the highlights of the weekend.  It is now one of the largest street parades in South Australia.

Vision and work pays off... Ten years of vision, commitment and dedication paid dividends.  In 1979 the finances raised through the Willunga Almond Blossom Festival and many other fund raising activities culminated in the opening of the current Willunga Recreation Centre (stadium) along with the purchase of our own equipment.  The Willunga Recreation Centre (stadium) along with the many other improvements that have been able to be made, as the result of a town pulling together and doing the impossible, has provided the Willunga district with a flexible sporting and social venue that has served and will continue to serve the community for years to come.  It is owned by Willunga community, something unique in these times.  Without the continuing vision of the locals it could easily have been lost to outside control. 

The future... Vision is a living thing.  If you are a local: Enjoy Willunga's recreation facilities.  Appreciate them and the work that has produced them.  Now… Help keep up the momentum.  Do for future generations what others have done for you...


Willunga Almond Blossom Time & Lions...

Almond Blossom Time in Willunga has special memories for Jac and I when we first started walking out together, in fact we climbed Louds Hill and enjoyed the beauty of the acres and acres of plains below clad in the beauty of Almond Blossom.
Jac and I always became part of the community events at this time of the year, it wasn't until the Willunga Almond Blossom Festival, started 40 years ago and the Willunga District Lion's Club was chartered that same year that we were really involved.
The Almond Blossom Festival and the Willunga Lions Club are both celebrating working for your community. The Lions were involved in barbecuing, and the first year we cooked hamburgers in a tent. We had enjoyed a week of beautiful weather and Sunday, the gala day started off with a hot blustery wind. The CFS hosed down some of the ground to settle the dust and shortly after midday it poured with rain. The following years we moved into the old booth and cooked the chops and sausages for the luncheon provided by the Almond Blossom Festival committee About the third or fourth year was the busiest ever. Fifty five buses had booked in between 11am and 2.30 pm We barbed 3,000 sausages and 1,500 chops. We had a team of about six. That was the heyday. Numbers gradually dropped off and when the old booth was demolished some years later the meals provided were changed and prepared in the Rec Park kitchen and we ceased to help with the luncheon. Our club continued to be associated with the Willunga Almond Blossom Festival, entering a Miss Almond Blossom in the quest.

The Lions Club offers an opportunity to any one who feels they would like to help raise funds for the benefit of those less able. Forty years ago I saw joining Lions as an opportunity to do that. Willunga and Districts Lions and their families past and present celebrate the dedicated work of forty years in Lionism. Brian and Rhonda Foreman and Jac and I are the only Charter Members left to celebrate with our club members those years in Lions.

Bob Bishop, Hope Forest


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