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Call me a party-pooper, but last night wasn't exactly perfect

Having thanked Robyn Archer for her creative direction, let's put the next big Canberra birthday event in the hands of a party planner.

Sure, it should aim to surprise and amaze, as much of Monday's show did, but it should inject more of a feeling of Canberra fun and look less like highbrow alphabet spaghetti.

Forget stuff like the machine on wheels that spelled out words in what looked like salt, only to have them trodden or ridden into oblivion moments later.

Forget the speech bubbles that veered between witty and weird or the flashing roadworks sign programed with phrases like "How droll''.

Park those boats that brought performers by for a frustratingly short few seconds of music like some kind of aural drive-by shooting.

Show off some more of Canberra, especially out there on the lake.

Get the Snowy Hydro Southcare rescue helicopter to run through some training drills on the lake.  Set something on fire and have our firefighters show off their skills putting it out.

Incorporate an outdoor art show where local artists can show off their stuff and visitors can buy a Canberra scene for their wall.

Give people things to see that might not set off the creative electrons in their brains, but at least entertain them.

Bring back the Birdman Rally!

Kids wouldn't have resorted to chucking rocks into the lake at Regatta Point on Monday if there'd been ordinary Canberrans leaping from a stage into the lake attached to a homemade flying machine. It used to attract thousands to the lake, and would've been a highlight of the birthday party and a nod to Canberra's fun and daggy past.

Simplify the layout.  The crowd was big yesterday, but around the enormous area of the lake foreshore, there were areas where crowd and entertainment were a bit thin.

No doubt it would've been impossible to predict the crowd, but the event had a feel of too much toast, not enough margarine.

Couldn't the Canberra symphony have been performed right down by the lake foreshore instead of halfway up to Old Parliament House so you didn't have to choose music at the expense of lakeviews or vice versa?

It's easy to quibble about things after the fact.  While some people might have felt there wasn't enough to see or do, others will have been absorbed by it all.

But there should be no arguing about where the celebrations failed. Catering.

Having heard so frequently that a massive crowd was expected around the lake, how was it that organisers allowed catering to be such a debacle?

Near the Regatta Point stage, where Gen Xers in particular were treated by the likes of Falling Joys and The Church, intolerably long queues stretched back from the handful of catering trucks nearby.

And unless you went BYO, it seemed those on the north side of the lake had to make do with soft drink.  If you wanted to symbolise Canberra's crosstown rivalry, keeping one side of the lake dry while the other sipped champagne at a ticketed event wouldn't be a bad start.

The people who seemed happiest with their lot were the ticketholders at the world's longest bubbly bar.  But for those stuck on the outside of the fence looking in, it had an unfortunate look of exclusivity.

Options to eat well and drink a little should've been a feature at all the major gathering points on Monday not just for the VIPs and bubbly bar ticket holders. Serving alcohol at outdoor events works for Enlighten and the National Multicultural Festival, whose vibe would've been welcome at the lake on Monday.

As other reports have noted, there was a lot to like about One Very Big Day. The weather was spectacular, the fireworks amazed the crowd, and a great many people would have went home feeling completely happy.

I hope organisers find some encouragement in the feedback they're getting, both good and bad.

We should be eager to do better next time, and by next time I mean next year.

While weary organisers will probably groan at the thought of doing anything close to Monday's event anytime before 2063, the city should demand we back up.

We should demand what's been an amazing combination of events - Enlighten, balloons, big sport moments and a large lakeside celebration - be fixed in the calendar to tempt Canberrans to stay put this long weekend every year instead of fleeing town for the coast.

Make it a really tough decision to leave.

That'd do more for Canberra pride than any amount of flaming out-of-towners for their opinion pieces will ever do.

What did you think about yesterday? What would you like to see from future Canberra celebrations?

95 comments so far

  • Agree with this article. More focus on the lake, bring back the Birdman Rally. Absolutely hilarious, wasn't this part of 'Fun n' Frolic in the 90's. To me, Lake Burley Griffin should be the main attraction, with lots of things happening, keeping families entertained all day/night.
    Happy Birthday Canberra.

    Date and time
    March 12, 2013, 8:40AM
    • Sadly I agree with the comments above, I was expecting so much more and felt the Enlighten festival trumped this event hands down. I was great to see so many people out but all the hype of “one dig day” got my expectations up only to scratch my head thinking “is that it?” The usual lake walk route littered with plywood frames, speech bubbles and featured words. I was surprised to see the word “Transient” made from removalist boxes falling off the back of the truck. I didn’t think that is a good word to use to describe a town… there might be some truth in it but as a celebration word… Nothing good is ever transient.

      Im confused as to why SKYFIRE wasn’t planned as the closing ceremony, is Canberra currently overstocked for fireworks, we can cover two events instead of “one big” event.

      YES PLEASE bring back the Birdman rally!!

      Me Mate Dave
      Date and time
      March 12, 2013, 11:23AM
    • I'm with the other comments. With children there was nothing to do but walk and look for food and drink somewhere. Why was the RAN in the middle of Nowhere doing I don't know what?

      The Lake is too big to spread things out. The champagne bar was great but seemed to be the only real attraction on the south side.

      But let me offer some positive advice for the 200th Anniversary....

      Five different themed zones - close enough to get to by foot without much of a trek; each zone represents somethin - multiculturalism, technology, play, arts, sport. Self contained and still celebrating Canberra. Add multiple boats to ferry people across the Lake.

      The Food and Wine Frolic was the last fun thing that happened in this town...

      Outraged of Palmerston
      Date and time
      March 12, 2013, 1:44PM
  • Spot on. This was the worst outdoor event I have been to in canberra. It was floriade without the flowers. I walked around with my wife, three kids and their grandparents and couldn't get a drink or meal without having to wait for 30mins. There was no structure and it seemed to be a mishmash of activities. This wouldn't have happened for Melbourne or Sydney's big parties.

    Date and time
    March 12, 2013, 8:41AM
    • 'floriade without the flowers' - quite true!

      Date and time
      March 12, 2013, 10:08AM
    • I agree. It was a massive picnic without enough food, activities and entertainment. Sure there were bands during the night but what happened to the daytime events? People dressed up as ants and signs saying FLOOD etc on the boats. What was that all about? No wonder this place cops a bashing from outsiders when this sort of pretentious rubbish is on display. Canberrans we can do better than that!

      Date and time
      March 12, 2013, 12:50PM
  • Sorry but it was disappointing. Your article was spot on. I was hoping for something much more exciting and flamboyant. I took my 12-year old and there was nothing for her. The only catering we could deal with was the mobile ice cream vans and forget about trying to go to the toilet. We would have loved something like the Birdman Rally or fighter jets over the lake - something big and visual and fun for all ages. We hung out for the fireworks given for our family that was the big deal - they were OK but a bit disappointing.

    Date and time
    March 12, 2013, 8:59AM
    • Concur. We took one look at the food and drink queues even just around lunchtime and decided to visit the National Archives 29 exhibit and have lunch at the NGA instead.

      Date and time
      March 12, 2013, 9:03AM
      • All the fun has been socially engineered out of Canberra. Anything that requires a pulse is gone!!!

        Date and time
        March 12, 2013, 9:03AM
        • rubbish! actually, utter rubbish! :-)

          Date and time
          March 12, 2013, 5:29PM

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