The Willunga Almond Blossom
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Willunga Almond Blossom Time &
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
Tickets & Contacts...
Top of page
No part of this website may be copied in any medium except as is allowed
by copyright law.
Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Willunga
Media, Box 319,
Willunga, SA 5172.