The Ballarat Begonia Festival is one of Australia’s oldest and most popular community events. The festival was launched in the autumn of 1953 by local Ballarat residents, who were keen to highlight and celebrate the growing post-war prosperity of their town and the local region.
The inaugural Ballarat Begonia Festival was opened by Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies and was an 11-day program of events that included archery demonstrations, square dancing and floral displays. A young Queen Elizabeth attended the festival in 1954 to admire the floral displays, and the Queen Mother visited a few years later.
Over the decades the festival has included just about everything from car rallies, to sheep dog trials and talent quests. In the 1970’s a long distance march was introduced. In 1985 the Festival extended to a whopping 16 days with no less than seven parades including a people’s parade, a children’s procession and a grand parade. The prestigious Begonia Queen competition ran until the 1990’s and was broadcast live on TV!