Blooming STEM: Samantha, Bea and Sadie get a sample of the science demonstrations set for this year’s Begonia Festival from Ben Zagame. Photo: ALISTAIR FINLAY

Begonia Fest begins to bud

February 13, 2020 BY

THE annual celebration of all thing begonia is less than a month away with the event getting its official launch last week at the Botanical Gardens.

But the three-day festival is more than just about the hardy perennial plant as once again there’s a huge range of things to do and see.

“This year it’s going to be bigger and better,” said mayor Cr Ben Taylor. “There’s so much for the younger age groups, all the way though to older generations.

“I love it, I come down for a couple of days. For my kids and I, we love doing the making stuff things, so we’re looking forward to what’s happening this year.”

With last year’s Ballarat Begonia Festival bringing in an estimated 60,000 people, Cr Taylor said the event was good for the city.

“Begonia is always huge for Ballarat,” he said. “It’s a great festival and even though there’s a strong community focus it also draws in a lot of visitors that come along and be part of it. 60,000 people come along, which is just amazing and about 33 per cent are from out of town.”

On the entertainment front Costa Georgiadis and Dirtgirl are back and they are bringing Gardening Australia presenter Sophie Thompson with them.

It’s not all about the flowers and plants though, with magician Barry Govan set to wow the crowd, a heap of live music events, and the PowerFM Begonia Parade.

CHW’s new range of stainless steel drink bottles will be for sale at Begonia Fest, with money raised going to WRISC.

Community partner Central Highlands Water is back on deck. While 2019 was about reducing waste, this time it’s all about science, technology and women.

“This year we’re focusing on innovation in water,” Jacqueline O’Neill, general manager of Customer and Community at CHW.

“Over that weekend we have International Women’s Day, so we want to focus on innovation and women innovating in the sector.”

However, that doesn’t mean the environment is off the agenda, with the two issues intrinsically linked.

“The continent is getting drier, across the world it’s getting drier and water is such a precious resource,” Ms O’Neill said. “So how do we ensure that we innovate in that space continuously.”

A big push this year is for taste buds with three MasterChef contestants lined up to create tantalising taste sensations.

Ballarat’s own Tim Bone will be joined by fellow 2019 contestant Anushka Zargaryan and 2009 series sensation Poh Ling Yeow.

“We’re really making the Sunday a real foodie focus, foodie Sunday,” said Mr Bone. “It’s going to be fantastic to be a part of it.

“We’re very lucky in the Ballarat to have so many amazing producers. I’m really trying to champion Ballarat as a real foodie destination.”

The Ballarat Begonia Festival is set for 7 to 9 March at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.