Full Steam Ahead For Grafton’s Jacaranda Festival

It’s full steam ahead for Grafton’s Jacaranda Festival after COVID-19 cast doubt on what the 86-year-old celebration would look like in 2020. The Queen Candidates and Junior Queen Candidates have been announced and fundraising is underway. Festival President Nicholas Buckler tells Coastbeat the countdown is on and excitement is building. 

It’s been a case of hope for the best and plan for the unknown as the Grafton Jacaranda Festival organising committee works toward the October event. Australia’s oldest floral festival is gearing up to celebrate its 86th birthday but there were concerns it might look a little different due to COVID-19. Festival President Nicholas Buckler says canceling was never an option. 

“We couldn’t not have a Jacaranda Queen; I don’t think Grafton would ever forgive us!” he laughs. “We’re hoping that by October we’ll be able to host the festival as usual.”

Nicholas has been heartened by the speed at which restrictions are being lifted and says it bodes well for Jacaranda Season. Nevertheless, contingency plans are being devised.  

“If mass gatherings are still limited, it might mean some venue changes,” he explains. “We’re considering options and working closely with the Clarence Valley Council.” 

Over the last few years the festival has caught the eye of international tourists. Jacaranda Season has been promoted on Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo, which have billions of active users between them. Travel bloggers and Instagram influencers have flocked to the city to capture the purple blossoms in full bloom. But with international travel off the agenda, Nicholas is hoping more Australians will take the opportunity to explore their own “backyard”.

“We’re hoping for a lot more inter and intra state tourism this year,” he says. “The Reboot 2020 campaign from Destination NSW is encouraging people to have an adventure at home and some of the new ads feature footage of hot air ballooning which was shot at the Jacaranda Festival.”

By this point in the proceedings, each Jacaranda Queen Candidate has usually planned and hosted multiple fundraising events but Nicholas says that hasn’t been possible over the last few months.  

“We’ve made the decision that all of the young women will come together to do joint fundraisers with the support of the committee, as it’s quite tough to hold an event.”

The first joint fundraiser was a Krispy Kreme donut drive and more events will be announced soon. In the meantime, get to know the 2020 Jacaranda Queen Candidates and plan your visit to Grafton. A preliminary program is available here.

Ella Sear, 18 

Sponsor: Toast Espresso 

What do you like about living in the Clarence Valley? 

I love being part of the Clarence Valley community and enjoy the opportunity to spend time with my family and friends. I love the laid back lifestyle that Grafton offers and the feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself. There are lots of great places to go and things to do, like the river and the beaches, restaurants and cafes plus sporting events. 

Why did you become a Jacaranda Queen Candidate? 

I decided to become a candidate this year because I thought it would be a fun way to challenge myself. I also like the idea of being part of this iconic community event and encouraging other young people to get involved, too. It’s a fairly unique way to give back to our community and I am looking forward to meeting lots of new people along the way. 

What Jacaranda Festival event is special to you and why? 

The Queen Crowning has always been special because I usually attend with my Nan and have spent years watching my cousins perform on stage. I also love the floats and the Venetian Carnival. I think it’s great how all of the local businesses get involved, too. It has been fun to be involved in Toast’s Jacaranda celebrations over the past couple of years; the purple throne is always a hit. 

Jessie Dee McLachlan, 29

Sponsor: Caringa Australia 

What do you like about living in the Clarence Valley? 

Grafton is my hometown and always will be where my heart is as my family and friends live here. The people are friendly and the scenery is beautiful. It’s such a relaxed environment with a diverse community. 

Why did you become a Jacaranda Queen Candidate? 

I know contestants from last year who enjoyed the experience. Hearing about their experiences encouraged me to become a Queen Candidate this year. 

What Jacaranda Festival event is special to you and why?

I’ve enjoyed Jacaranda Thursday for many years and now I’m able to experience it with my son. I love the breakfast at Market Square, and I have fun looking at the markets and watching performances from the local businesses. Seeing everyone dressed up and enjoying the Jacaranda festivities makes me so happy. 

Ella Gilbert, 18 

Sponsor: Brewhouse Café 

What do you like about living in the Clarence Valley? 

I love Grafton, everyone is so friendly, and the community spirit is fantastic. Grafton people look out for each other and pull together in times of need. People in Grafton also love an opportunity to have fun and celebrate our town. 

Why did you become a Jacaranda Queen Candidate? 

I love Grafton and the Jacaranda Festival. I saw this as an opportunity to get involved and contribute to this great community and iconic festival. It’s also a great opportunity to be an ambassador for the community throughout the year with fundraising events. 

What Jacaranda Festival event is special to you and why?

Retrofest! I love all things vintage and Retrofest epitomises Jacaranda for me. It gives people an opportunity to look back at some of the really cool things that have been in our past history, remember them and celebrate them. 

Natalie Van der Klei, 29

Sponsor: Cranes Community Support Programs 

What do you like about living in the Clarence Valley? 

The serenity and the vintage homes, exploring the beautiful rivers and beaches, the diverse community and the unique events. 

Why did you become a Jacaranda Queen Candidate? 

I saw it as an exciting opportunity to meet new people. 

What Jacaranda Festival event is special to you and why?

I love the Children’s Morning Party. I enjoy dressing up and going on the Ferris Wheel, seeing all the beautiful purple flowers and attending Retrofest. 

Find out more about Grafton’s Jacaranda Festival here and follow along on Instagram

Read Coastbeat’s Odd and Quirky Facts about the Clarence Valley here. 

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