Blooming begonias draw crowds to Botanical Gardens festival

A combination of sunny weather and drawcard special guests saw numbers up from 2017 at Ballarat’s Begonia Festival. 

Picture: Lachlan Bence

Picture: Lachlan Bence

Each day of the long weekend at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens attracted between 500 and 1000 people more than the 2017 festival, according to festival manager Heidi Zukauskas.  

Begonia Festival has charmed Ballarat's gardens for more than six decades. We know the community love it, the tourists love it and it just seems to get stronger and stronger.

Samantha McIntosh, City of Ballarat mayor

The number of visitors to the gardens reached around 14,000 on Saturday and 18,500 on Sunday, with around 10,000 people at the Begonia Parade. 

Picture: Kate Healy

Picture: Kate Healy

Special festival guests Dirtgirl and Costa the Gnome from Get Grubby TV proved crowd favourites, filling chairs at the main lawn for each performance. 

Every show at the comedy tent was at maximum capacity, while long lines for food, and high plant sales highlighted the popularity of the event, festival organisers say.

Begonia display. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Begonia display. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Around 6000 to 10,000 people walked through the festival’s namesake Begonia Display each day, a show of blooming colour in the Robert Clark Conservatory. 

City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said people came from far and wide to experience the festival, which had broader benefits for tourism and the city’s economy. 

There was a hive of people in the city centre and accommodation, restaurants and hotels were packed out for the weekend.

Samantha McIntosh, City of Ballarat mayor

Hundreds of staff and hundreds of volunteers worked to put on the Begonia Festival, organised and run by City of Ballarat. 

The event is set to run again in 2019, a stable fixture in the Ballarat events calendar for 66 years. 

Begonia parade. Picture: Kate Healy

Begonia parade. Picture: Kate Healy

“We know Ballarat people love gardens and history and those two things need to be protected. Begonia Festival is a combination of both,” Cr McIntosh said. 

“Community groups and personalities all had a similar message of getting people out into gardens, enjoying environment, protecting what’s around them and making the most of what we have.

“We want to know that people are enjoying gardens.”