Canberra hosted its first Winter Farewell Bonfire Festival at the old Weston Creek school playing fields on the weekend, with hundreds of families turning out to enjoy some old-fashioned fun.
The event organised by the Weston Creek Community Council (WCCC) and the ACT Government was to farewell the winter chill and welcome the spring.
Chris Leach brought his family from nearby Rivett to join the activities.
“I’ve never been to a bonfire this size before,” he said.
“All the family is here, and all the kids’ friends are coming along too, and I’m sure they will enjoy themselves.”
Lee McKinley from Sydney loved telling her grandchildren about childhood memories of bonfire and firecracker nights.
“There is a big pile prepared here, and I remember the excitement of collecting all the old wood and fence palings for weeks,” she said.
“We’d put it all on a vacant block of land, and then we’d save and buy firecrackers and it was a huge night.
“Children had accidents and we’d sometimes burn our fingers, but it was fun.”
Belinda Wilson lives close by and was delighted to see the Weston Creek oval being used after the school closed in the 1990s.
“We’re really supportive of doing local things like this in the community,” she said.
“We don’t normally have many bonfires this size these days, so there’s a bit of excitement too.
“It’s coming to the end of winter, so it’s a great way to say goodbye to the use of the wood-fired heaters.”
WCCC deputy chair Pat McGinn said crowds started arriving at the oval early in the day despite temperatures dropping below zero most nights.
“We haven’t had anything else like this before in Weston Creek,” she said.
“The festival includes entertainment, food stalls and community groups explaining what they do, but the highlight is the bonfire in the middle.
“It is a thing you remember from your childhood, a nice warm bonfire, so I’ve noticed there are a lot of families here.”
The enormous bonfire was surrounded by a double layer of safety fencing to prevent anyone getting to close to the flames.
“We have the ACT Fire Brigade here helping out, St John Ambulance and a big barrier so no-one can get to the fire,” Ms McGinn said.
The Council is considering making the bonfire event an annual fixture on the community calendar.