THIS year’s Begonia Festival attracted record crowds and generated more than $3.1 million for the region, according to a report to the City of Ballarat.
Of the 45,000 visits to the three-day event over the Labour Day long weekend in March, 66 per cent were locals and 34 per cent were tourists, read the report, to be tabled at this Wednesday’s council meeting.
The report said the 2014 festival set a record attendance of 45,000 visits by 37,425 people. This was a 55 per cent increase on the 2013 attendance figure of 29,000.
City strategy director Natalie Reiter attributed the success of this year’s event to positioning all activities within the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.
“Previous use of the lake foreshore and the gardens resulted in significant crowd dispersal and a subsequent loss in energy and excitement,” Ms Reiter said.
The 2014 Begonia Parade was again popular for participant groups and businesses, with 54 community groups and organisations marching.
“The parade is a popular element to the festival, but is also proving problematic due to the time it takes to march so many groups. Many spectators leave the parade and enter the festival well before it is completed,” Ms Reiter said.
She said an important community event for the past 62 years, the Begonia Festival also fulfilled important tourism outcomes for the city.
“The 2014 festival saw a considerable increase in overall attendance, which includes a significant increase in both local and tourist visitation.”
Of the three days of the festival, Monday was the most popular, with 17,000 attendances, followed by 15,000 on the Saturday and another 13,000 on the Sunday.
Independent research into this year’s event showed 97 per cent of attendees rated the festival either good or very good and indicated they would attend future Begonia Festivals.
Of those surveyed, 84 per cent spent more than two hours at the festival, 47 per cent spent at least half the day at the event and 23 per cent attended the festival on two days, up from 19 per cent last year. A further eight per cent indicated they attended the festival on all three days, up from seven per cent on last year.