Almond Blossom Festival
|Type of event||Celebration|
|Street name||5 Main|
|Town or locality|| Willunga
|Managed or hosted by||Willunga Recreation Park|
In the 1960s Willunga was blossoming as the largest almond producing area in SA, with over 1300 acres devoted to almond growing. Many visitors came to see the spectacular pink and white blossoms which appeared in late July.
In November 1969, a public meeting chaired by Ken Hall decided that an almond blossom festival would provide a focus for visitors and also raise funds to upgrade the facilities of the community-owned Recreation Park.
An Almond Blossom Festival Committee was formed with R T Martin as Chair and Donald McDonald as Secretary. The first Festival in July 1970 was successful, raising $2900. An ambitious program over 10 days included an opening Variety Concert, a Drama night, a Cookery demonstration, the Almond Blossom Ball, the Carnival Day and street procession, log chopping, dancing displays (Scottish and Serbian), marching girls, pipe bands and displays of art, antiques, almond cracking and historical archives. BBQ lunches and Devonshire teas were served. Admission to events ranged from 30-60 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.
The Festival Ball was a sell-out night at which Miss Almond Blossom was crowned. The first Miss Almond Blossom, Anne-Marie Richards, was crowned by celebrity Jan Springett and received a cash award. Miss Almond Blossom 1971, Christeen Ellbourne, received a trip to Melbourne (with chaperone).
Judging in 1970 was by popular vote. Later, entrants were assessed on personality and presentation with judging taking place at Willunga House prior to the Ball. Sponsorship by local groups was introduced and a second award (Miss Charity, later Miss Community) was made to the entrant who raised the most money. These awards for young women were discontinued around 2001 when young men sought to participate. In response, a Youth Personality award was introduced but lapsed after a few years.
The Festival has continued since 1970 with many new features including Saturday entertainment for young people, sideshows and fireworks. It has raised over $1 million dollars to fund the building of the Recreation Hall, the Sports and Social Club and the Tennis and Netball court and clubrooms. It has also paid for upkeep and maintenance of Recreation Ground facilities.