The first Bendigo Easter Fair, as it was known then, was held in 1871 by Messrs. Aspinal and Burnside to raise funds for the Sandhurst Benevolent Asylum and Hospital raising over £1000 for this charitable cause. The fair was considered such a success that it has been held every year since, making it Australia's longest ongoing community festival!
The festival continues to showcase Bendigo’s diverse community through displays from the Bendigo Chinese Association and many other community groups who have contributed to it's success. The Gala Parade and Torchlight Lantern Procession are integral to the festival and provide opportunities for the community to express artistic talent and demonstrate cultural diversity.
The 2018 Bendigo Easter Festival will mark the festival's 148th anniversary. The Bendigo Easter Festival Reference Group is committed to the ongoing longevity and success of this iconic Bendigo event.
FReeZA Music Event
The inaugural Thursday evening FReeZA Music Event was hosted with one of Australia’s most popular bands, British India, headlining.
Artists including Calling all Cars, Bonjah and Jakubi have all featuring across the events short history which has established itself as one of the festivals must attend events!
The event also provides an opportunity for young people to be involved in the festival, with the local FReeZA committee consisting of 15 young people hosting the event.
Vision Australia Easter Egg Hunt
Hosted by Vision Australia, this popular event has become a Bendigo Easter Festival tradition. Children love to join in the fun, searching for thousands of Easter Eggs hidden in straw.
In 2014, an adult only egg hunt was introduced in which adults, who participated in the event, had to remain blindfolded. This allowed participants a small insight into the lives of those living with blindness and low vision.
Rotary Art and Craft Market
The Rotary Club of Bendigo Sandhurst hosted a community barbeque marking their first involvement at the festival.
The barbeque continued in subsequent years and eventually evolved to become the ever popular Rotary Art, Craft and Produce Market that you see at today's festival!
The first Dragon Mile, a foot race through the main streets of Bendigo, was conducted.
The Dragon Mile has played a significant part not only the Bendigo Easter Festival, but also in the athletics history of Bendigo.
By the late 1960's, Loong was getting old and an effort to raise money for a new dragon to lead the Gala Parade began. The Loong 100 Committee of local Bendigo businessmen was instrumental in raising the money for the purchase of Sun Loong.
Sun Loong made his first appearance in the festival in 1970 and continues to lead the Gala Parade each year. Measuring approximately 100 metres, Sun Loong is believed to be the longest imperial dragon in the world!
Clan MacLeod Pipe Band
The Clan MacLeod Pipe Band first led the Gala Parade in the mid-60's, a tradition that continues to this day.
Fire Truck Rides
The Bendigo Combined Fire Brigades commenced running children's rides through Rosalind Park
Popular Girl Contest
The Popular Girls contest was first introduced. In this contest, the four main streets of Bendigo: Pall Mall, Mitchell Street, Hargreaves Street and originally View Street, then Williamson Street, all sponsored a Popular Girl. The business houses in these streets supported their popular girl with raffles, street stalls and fundraising events. The contest ran for just over 60 years.
The Torchlight Procession was first introduced and has since continued its long standing tradition of bringing fire brigades from far and wide to contribute to the festivities.
The unique parade is made up of three distinct sections; fire brigades and emergency services, lanterns and the contingent from Bendigo Chinese Association.
In 1892 the Chinese members of the community provided a dragon as a focus for the festival.
At approximately 60 metres long, Loong swayed about amidst fireworks with the support of 80 men with rolling eyes and lolling tongues.
Loong walked through the streets of Bendigo until his retirement in 1970 and to this day, remains on display at the Golden Dragon Museum.
Made of silk, cardboard, bamboo, mirrors and paper mache, he is the world's oldest imperial dragon.
Golden Square Fire Brigade
Golden Square Fire Brigade first took part in the Easter Processions. Brigade juniors would decorate floats with live flowers and march alongside during the procession. This tradition continued until the 1980’s where floats were built by senior brigade members and supported by the ladies auxiliary.
In 1879 a committee of Chinese residents organised the Chinese community’s first large scale participation in the annual Bendigo Easter Fair, an event to which individual members of the community had always donated goods and funds.
Bendigo Easter Fair
On Easter Monday, April 10, 1871, the very first Bendigo Easter Fair was held by Messrs Aspinal and Burnside with the aim of raising funds for the Sandhurst Benevolent Asylum and Hospital.
The event was a huge success, raising over £1000 for the charitable cause.