October 04, 2017

THE future of the Echuca Heritage Steam Festival is up in the air.

After 20 years of steam history at the Port of Echuca the Campaspe Shire is yet to confirm the festival which is normally held in October.

Acting chief executive Keith Oberin said in the past, the Heritage Festival has been coordinated and funded by the Portside Traders.

‘‘With significant involvement of the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre,’’ he said.

‘‘The festival has not been held on a fixed date, and changed from year to year. With the demise of the Portside Traders, the festival coordination has been taken over by the Discovery Centre and plans are under way for a festival in 2017.’’

Mr Oberin said November 11 is the planned date but nothing is confirmed.

‘‘Staff are currently confirming dates and displays and until a date is confirmed, no promotion of the event and displays can occur,’’ he said. ‘‘Council recognises the significance of this festival, however feels it does not have to happen during school holidays and may better suit to run outside this period to stimulate activation in the port precinct as a non-school holiday activity.

‘‘Once details are confirmed, promotion of the event will start.’’

The festival was started two decades ago by the late Bruce Whelan who was the manager of the Port of Echuca in the ’80s and early ’90s.

His widow, Jennafer Whelan, was told a very different story about the festival not going ahead.

‘‘I received a phone call from a councillor who said the festival would not be run in the first week of October because they didn’t have the time,’’ she said.

‘‘My late husband was the brainchild behind the Heritage Steam Festival and he saw authentic attractions, what he termed quality tourism, as being integral to the popularity of the Port precinct.

‘‘The Heritage Steam Festival, Bruce envisaged, would capture and keep children, who are fascinated by the story of steam, and he believed there was no better place to foster and encourage that ‘living, working history’ than at the Port.’’

Ms Whelan said the council should be placing emphasis and energy on what is real and authentic.

‘‘This includes the important history steam plays in the history, development, progress and sheer wonder of the imagination and ingenuity of our forefathers,’’ she said.

‘‘I think it is really important to highlight this because it is about the survival of quality tourism, and encouraging an awareness and appreciation of history to what we often take for granted.’’

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