When asked by the Bendigo Advertiser if he would support the campaign, Sir Richard was shy of committing a precise amount but said “we’ll definitely be chipping in anyway”, to the applause of representatives from Bendigo.
The cost of bringing Dai Gum Loong – ‘Big Golden Dragon’ in English – to Bendigo and restoring Sun Loong will amount to about $750,000.
Golden Dragon Museum general manager Anita Jack said Virgin had already promised to help freight the dragon from Hong Kong to Bendigo in what was the start of a “fruitful relationship” between the two organisations.
Ms Jack said she would leave any potential further contributions up to the company to decide.
City of Greater Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke said Virgin had been very positive towards Bendigo’s fundraising efforts for Dai Gum Loong.
Cr O’Rourke said Bendigo was already good at promoting its offering, but Wednesday’s event was an opportunity to showcase the area even further, especially the strength of its Chinese heritage.
Sir Richard not only emerged from underneath the head of the city’s night dragon Yar Loong, but was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Bendigo’s name.
In a show of appreciation for partnering with Bendigo at the launch, Cr O’Rourke and Ms Jack presented Sir Richard with a painting by local artist Terry Jarvis, depicting him standing in front of Sun Loong.
“I think he was very pleased,” Cr O’Rourke said.
EARLIER: BENDIGO’S own Yar Loong has teamed with Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson to promote his latest venture.
Sir Richard launched Virgin Australia’s inaugural Melbourne to Hong Kong flights by carrying the head of the 32-metre night dragon Yar Loong in a traditional procession with lion dancers and drummers.
The performance surprised travellers at Melbourne International Airport on Wednesday morning.
The crowd eagerly wondered what was about to happen, before Yar Loong and Sir Richard appeared.
Onlookers took pictures and videos as Yar Loong came through the crowd.
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The Hong Kong service will operate five times a week.
The Bendigo Advertiser readers were also thrilled to see Yar Loong and Sir Richard together.
Several people took to social media to share in the excitement.
Yar Loong isn’t the only Bendigo dragon in the spotlight lately.
Imperial dragon Sun Loong will again perform solo at next year’s Bendigo Easter festival, as the push to bring a new people’s dragon to the city continues.
Fundraising for his replacement – Dai Gum Loong – is building momentum.
Golden Dragon Museum general manager Anita Jack hoping to see the two dragons paraded in the 2019 Easter parade.
Ms Jack said the decision to have Dai Gum Loong arrive in 2019 was about making sure the right dragon was chosen to come to Bendigo.
Along with Yar Loong and Sir Richard , other notable names at Wednesday morning’s launch included Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo, Virgin Australia Group chief executive and managing director John Borghetti, Victorian Sports Minister and Tourism and Major Events Minister John Eren, and Hong Kong Tourism Board regional director Andrew Clarke.