FELICITY Brennan-Tong and Kirstie Jones are blazing a trail for female dragon carriers.
The two women are part of the elite team sharing the responsibility of carrying the head of the city's new dragon, Dai Gum Loong, during the Bendigo Advertiser Gala Parade.
As Dai Gum Loong is the first of the city's great processional dragons to be carried by both men and women, Felicity and Kirstie are the Bendigo Chinese Association's first female head carriers.
"It's a big honour to carry the head of the dragon," Felicity said.
Her father, the late David Hui Tong, was one of Sun Loong's head carriers.
"I'm very proud to follow in my father's footsteps... I think he'd be very proud, if he was here," Felicity said.
"I never thought I would ever have this opportunity."
The 25-year-old has been involved in the Easter parade for as long as she can remember.
She has worked her way up to being a head carrier for Dai Gum Loong, carrying lions and then smaller dragons.
"I carried Siu Lock [Loong], and then he was retired. Then we had a new dragon come in called Guang Loong, so I carried him," Felicity said.
"Now that Dai Gum Loong is here I was asked to be a head carrier."
Carrying the head of one of the city's imperial dragons means shouldering a huge responsibility - literally.
Dai Gum Loong's head is about 27 kilograms.
There is a team of about 10 head carriers, but only one person has the dragon's head in their hands at any one time while parading.
The head carriers frequently swap so the weight is bearable.
"He can't be carried for very long," Felicity said.
She and Kirstie were tested for the role with a 20-kilogram practice pole, to ensure they could comfortably lift and handle the dragon's head.
Felicity said Dai Gum Loong's weight came as a bit of a surprise.
"We didn't expect him to be this heavy," she said.
But the head carriers have taken the extra seven-or-so kilograms in their strides.
Both Felicity and Kirstie have taken it upon themselves to do extra weight training in the lead-up to the festival in preparation for their roles.
The dragon's carriers have had two opportunities to practice before the big day.
Dai Gum Loong took what might be the longest walk of his life when he first arrived in Bendigo. More than 150 people banded together to safely stroll the 125-metre dragon in excess of five kilometres from the Bendigo Airport, where he was assembled, to the Golden Dragon Museum.
The walk was almost four times the length of the parade route.
Dai Gum Loong's carriers were back in action the following weekend, as the dragon headed to Girton Grammar School ahead of the the eye dotting ceremony.
Felicity said having the opportunity to practice on such a large scale gave her confidence for the Easter weekend.
"When he first came out I didn't want to take it. I was just terrified," she said.
"He's big. There's a lot of responsibility in it. I didn't actually know if I'd be able to take the weight or not, so that was a scary moment.
"Once I was under there and I took the weight and managed it, I felt a lot better about it.
"It's just about having the strength and the dedication and knowing that you can be trusted with it."
Dai Gum Loong is an equality dragon in more ways than the gender of his carriers.
Felicity is of Chinese descent. Kirstie is not.
"To me, it's always been a Chinese role," Kirstie said of being a head carrier.
She had no idea when she first saw Dai Gum Loong that she was being considered for the role.
"When I first found out females were actually able to carry this new dragon I was pretty excited at the prospect that one day my youngest daughter, who is eight, will have the opportunity to be a head carrier," Kirstie said.
"When I learnt that my name had been put down as a consideration to carry this new dragon I was honoured, but very surprised as well.
"I suppose having done nearly every single community event that we've held down here, being one of the lesser dragons' carriers on and off for years, being the main repairer, I suppose, for Sun Loong and a pretty big advocate for making sure the traditional ways of things have been done, I've felt very blessed."
The 44-year-old said she had been given a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"To be part of the spectacular that's going to be at the fountain will just be life-changing," Kirstie said.
All four of the city's largest dragons - heritage-listed Loong, Sun Loong, Dai Gum Loong and night dragon Yar Loong - will meet during the parade in front of the Alexandra Fountain.
The city's oldest surviving imperial dragon will then lead the subsequent generations home along Pall Mall, to the Golden Dragon Museum.
"It's unbelievable that he's even making it out the door," Kirstie said of Loong, who is about 120 years old.
She has been helping conserve Loong in the lead-up to the parade, which is scheduled from 1pm - 3pm on Easter Sunday.
Kirstie's daughters, Imogen and Lily Jones-Jack, will be the sixth generation of their father's family to participate in the event.
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