ROLL ON: The Great Australian Pumpkin Roll down Policeman's Hill.
ROLL ON: The Great Australian Pumpkin Roll down Policeman's Hill. Tanya Easterby

GOURD LORD: Why 14,000 people are about to hit Goomeri

SUNDAY is the last Sunday in May so you know what that means - it is the annual Goomeri Pumpkin Festival.

This year there is a packed itinerary of great family fun things to do on Saturday as well.

It all starts with a barbecue breakfast at the Goomeri sportgrounds at 7am, where there will also be a cake stall, Mondee coffee and photography comp.

 

Goomeri Pumpkin Festival is a great day out for all ages.
Goomeri Pumpkin Festival is a great day out for all ages.

Wine tasting starts at 11am, then the Nanango Races free return shuttle bus will depart at 11.30am for those wanting an afternoon at the country races.

This year for the first time Goomeri will host twilight markets today from 3-8pm in the new Market Square in the Railway Yards Precinct. Food will be supplied by local community organisations including the SES, Goomeri Lions, Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, Coffee Road Mobile Cafe and local businesses. Live entertainment will be held throughout the markets on the Main Stage.

 

The Pumpkin Roll at the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival.
The Pumpkin Roll at the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival. Tobi Loftus

The family fun starts early on Sunday - at 8am - and goes until 4pm. Check into Pumpkin Central in the BGA car park as soon as you arrive and you will be able to register for all the pumpkin comps and plan your day.

There will be camel rides, face painting, too many stalls to count, an historic machinery display, jumping castle, fair floss, animal nursery, dancing, roving entertainers, celebrity chefs, live entertainment, a street parade, reptile display, mini pig races and of course all the pumpkin events.

 

Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, May 31, 2015.
CONTRIBUTED
Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, May 31, 2015. CONTRIBUTED Contributed

These include pumpkin power shot put, the pumpkin pageant, the pumpkin patch snatch, the dash for cash and of course the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll from the top of Policeman's Hill.

The inaugural Goomeri Pumpkin Festival was held on June 1, 1997 under the name Goomeri, Town of 1911, Pumpkin Festival.

 

Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, May 31, 2015.
CONTRIBUTED
Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, May 31, 2015. CONTRIBUTED Contributed

During the 1990s, Goomeri, like many other rural areas, was in a time of prolonged drought and water shortages. Farmers and local businesses were doing it tough and morale was at an all time low.

A town meeting was held to discuss ideas for improving the town's morale and lagging business economy. At the meeting, one of the ideas was to have a festival of some kind. As pumpkins had been traditionally grown in the area over a number of years, the idea of a Pumpkin Festival was born.

A small group of enthusiastic supporters banded together to organise the first festival. Amidst cries of, "it'll never work" and "I've never heard such a silly idea", the committee forged ahead and the first festival was held.

 

Jake Reid trowws a pumpkin to promote the Goomeri Pumpkin festival in Gympie.
Jake Reid trowws a pumpkin to promote the Goomeri Pumpkin festival in Gympie. Renee Albrecht

The fun part of the festival was to have people rolling pumpkins down a hill. The idea of rolling pumpkins down a hill was so way out that it was appealing and thus the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll was born and Policeman's Hill got its name.

The purpose of the festival was to bring people and money into the town's flagging economy and to extend country hospitality to the visitors. And, attract them it did! The first festival had an attendance of about 1000 and was a raging success. There were 71 pumpkin rollers and the Great Australian Pumpkin Roll had made its mark in the history of the town. Local business owners were encouraged to open their doors for the festival and take advantage of the increased population as a result.

Goomeri was on a roll. The 1997 success provided the incentive for the committee to continue with another festival in 1998 as more people were willing to become involved.

The town had received a well needed boost which we needed to capitalize on. Goomeri had shown what a little initiative and daring could do â€" we took a risk and it paid off big time!

The Goomeri Pumpkin Festival has continued to grow each year since 1997, to the extent where it has received state, national and international recognition.

The Great Australian Pumpkin Roll has continued to grow and, in 2009, there were over 600 Pumpkin Rollers sending their pumpkins racing, splattering and hurtling down Policeman's Hill.

Policeman's Hill (named so because the Police Station is at the bottom) has become a tourist attraction in its own right as people come to see where these pumpkins roll.

The festival has expanded over the years to include many more pumpkin based competitions including pumpkin bowls, decorated pumpkins, giant pumpkin competition, pumpkin pull, pumpkin pageant, pumpkin quilt challenge, decorated tea towel competition and the pumpkin power shot put.

Add to these events the many market stalls, the Heritage and Outback Street Parade, whip cracking, Working Dog Displays, horsemanship displays, roving entertainment and great pumpkin food, and you have a family friendly, entry free event for everyone to enjoy.

Visitor numbers for each festival now stand at approximately 14,000 people and everyone has a great time. The festival is now a significant regional event in Queensland and was voted number 24 in RACQs 150 Must Dos.

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