Sunny days draw big crowds for Ballarat Begonia Festival ahead of the much-anticipated parade day on Monday | GALLERY

Blooming begonias, sunny skies and a packed program of family activities and entertainment combined to draw strong crowds to the Ballarat Begonia Festival over the weekend.

And the best is yet to come with the traditional parade taking place on Monday at 11am expected to draw the biggest crowds of 66-year-old festival.

Festival manager Heidi Zukauskas, the busiest lady in Ballarat over the long weekend, said about 16,000 people visited the gardens on Saturday, around 500 more than last year, with a similar number expected on Sunday.

“The biggest day is usually Monday because a lot of locals wait until when the parade is on to come along to see family or friends involved.”

Ballarat Begonia Festival event manager Heidi Zukauskas

More than 50 groups of up to 40 participants each have entered the 2018 parade. Around 10,000 people are expected to line both sides of Wendouree Parade as the procession makes its way between the Tramway Museum and North Gardens.

Gardening guru Costa Georgiadis returned to one of his favourite festivals, dishing out advice and performing as Costa the Gnome with his pal Dirt Girl.

“Where do you find a better setting for an event?” he asked.

“These gardens look great, particularly after such a hot dry season, and to be able to get so many people at an event like this in such a historic setting and have them connect to values around environment, nature, growing food, composting, worms and sustainability is wonderful,” he said.

CROWN: Evie Gull gets to work making her paper pot to plant a herb seedling in at the BotaniKIDS planting activity.

CROWN: Evie Gull gets to work making her paper pot to plant a herb seedling in at the BotaniKIDS planting activity.

The BotaniKIDS herb planting was again one of the festival hot-spots with thousands of families potting a herb seedling to take home.

Organiser Julie Bradby expected around 3500 herb pails to be fashioned, planted out and taken home to be planted in gardens each day of the festival.

“It slows everyone down a bit, which is the reason we structure it to step through slowly,” Ms Bradby said.

“We talk about the garden, how important it is to relax, and that when we plant something it doesn’t instantly grow so it’s about having hope and thinking about what will happen in the future.

“That’s a big lesson because a lot of kids don’t have that sense of doing something now that will bear fruit later – they’re all about instant gratification.”

Mayor Samantha McIntosh said the focus of this year’s festival was encouraging people to get out of their lounge rooms, in to the open air and “enjoy dirt, enjoy growing a garden and everything that comes with it”.

“I think for little kids, parents and grandparents the goal of our Ballarat Begonia Festival is about everyone being out and active enjoying what’s around them.”

CIRCUS: Dave Evans and Tamara Campbell (aka Pascal and Kiki) clown around outside their La Petite Grande Tent, the home of circus-style shows, on their second visit to the Ballarat Begonia Festival. Pictures: Lachlan Bence

CIRCUS: Dave Evans and Tamara Campbell (aka Pascal and Kiki) clown around outside their La Petite Grande Tent, the home of circus-style shows, on their second visit to the Ballarat Begonia Festival. Pictures: Lachlan Bence

Madcap antics at Begonia Festival

Performers Dave Evans and Tamara Campbell had such a good time at last year’s Ballarat Begonia Festival that they packed up their tent and returned for a repeat performance.

The colourful NSW-based variety performers erected their mini “spiegelesque” show tent La Petite Grande Tent in the gardens and filled it with their favourite acts.

“We were absolutely rammed last year and every single show was completely full. The nice thing about this is we can bring back the tent and have a different line up of different groups,” said Mr Evans.

Comedy, circus and variety dominate their 2018 line-up with acts including a bubble show, contortionists, acrobatics starting every 45 minutes.

“The Begonia Festival is terrific for us because it’s in such a beautiful setting, it’s a family audience and a very well established and well-patronised festival.”

“Bringing our tent means we can put on the best show possible because we have created a controlled environment, so come along!”