The inaugural Goomeri Pumpkin Festival was held on 1 June 1997 under the name Goomeri, Town of 1911, Pumpkin Festival.
During that 1990s Goomeri, like many other rural areas, was in a time of prolonged drought and water shortages. Farmers and local businesses were doing it tough and morale was at an all time low.
A town meeting was held to discuss ideas for improving the town’s morale and lagging business economy. At the meeting, one of the ideas was to have a festival of some kind. As pumpkins had been traditionally grown in the area over a number of years, the idea of a Pumpkin Festival was born.
A small group of enthusiastic supporters banded together to organize the first festival. Amidst cries of ‘It’ll never work’, ‘I’ve never heard such a silly idea!’ and so on, the committee forged ahead and the first festival was held. The fun part of the festival was to have people rolling pumpkins down a hill. The idea of rolling pumpkins down a hill was so way out that it was appealing and thus the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll was born and Policeman’s Hill got its name.
The purpose of the festival was to bring people and money into our town’s flagging economy and to extend country hospitality to the visitors whom we hoped to attract. And, attract them we did! The first festival had an attendance of approximately 1000 and was a raging success. There were 71 pumpkin rollers and the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll had made its mark in the history of the town. Local business owners were encouraged to open their doors for the festival and take advantage of the increased population as a result.
Goomeri was on a roll! The 1997 success provided the incentive for the committee to continue with another festival in 1998 as more people were willing to become involved. The town had received a well needed boost which we needed to capitalize on. Goomeri had shown what a little initiative and daring could do – we took a risk and it paid off big time!
The Goomeri Pumpkin Festival has continued to grow each year since 1997, to the extent where it has received state, national and international recognition. The Great Australian Pumpkin Roll™ has continued to grow and, in 2009, there were over 600 Pumpkin Rollers sending their pumpkins racing, splattering and hurtling down Policeman’s Hill. Policeman’s Hill (named so because the Police Station is at the bottom) has become a tourist attraction in its own right as people come to see where these pumpkins roll.
The festival has expanded over the years to include many more pumpkin based competitions including Pumpkin Bowls, Decorated Pumpkins, Giant Pumpkin competition, Pumpkin Pull, Pumpkin Pageant, Pumpkin Quilt Challenge, Decorated Tea Towel Competition and, new in 2010, the Pumpkin Power Shot Put.
Add to these events the many market stalls, the Heritage and Outback Street Parade, whip cracking, Working Dog Displays, horsemanship displays, roving entertainment and great pumpkin food, and you have a family friendly, entry free event for everyone to enjoy.
Our visitor numbers for each festival now stand at approximately 14 000 people and everyone has a great time. The festival is now a significant regional event in Queensland and was voted number 24 in RACQs 150 Must Do’s.
Where are you going to be on the Last Sunday in May? Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, of course!