Hundreds donned yellow and gathered downtown on the grand final eve public holiday to celebrate diversity under the banner ‘Believe in Bendigo’.
Melbourne band Sol Nation headlined an event which also included local bands, Chinese dragon dancers, a giant bubble blower called TimTim and food stalls selling everything from tacos to the great staple of community events – snags, tomato sauce and onions on white bread.
Organisers couldn’t have asked for better weather, with the glorious spring sunshine almost enough to make a convert of Natasha Joyce.
“If I was religious – which I’m not – I’d say it was blessed,” she said.
The La Trobe student said her family and friends were enjoying the event so much they wanted to see it become a fixture on the Bendigo calendar.
“It’d be a great annual event, a multi-cultural festival on the footy public holiday... to me that’s pretty much what it means to be Australian,” she said.
A group of five Year 7 girls from thee different schools did their bit to try and spread the Believe in Bendigo message. Stelllina Baxter, Matisse Rooke, Tilly Osborne, Grace Barton and Daisy Cornwall made two cut out iPhone screens with hashtags like #BelieveInBendigo for people to pose for selfies.
“Everybody is on social media now… or pretty much everybody,” Matisse said.
“We want people to see what is happening here so we thought this would be a fun, quirky way to get people to use these hashtags.”
The event provided a platform for local outfit the Seduceaphones. Saxophonist Harry Godfrey said the Year 12 students had reluctantly taken time from studying for final exams to play the show.
“We’re half of us from Bendigo, half from Castlemaine… so we’ve got the best of both worlds,” he said.
While Harry said he was a “bit embarrassed” by anti-mosque protests which caused the event, he said some good had come from them.
“It’s more of a Castlemaine thing to do a community event like this, so it’s good to see Bendigo get on board.”
Founder and director of the Golden Dragon Museum, Russell Jack, said the event was a reflection of wider sentiment towards minority groups.
“You’ve only gotta see our procession at Easter time where we have over 1000 people,” he said.
“Seven hundred little white faces and all they want to be on that day is Chinese and we accept them as such, same as they accept us as Aussies.”