‘May The Force Be With Us’: Australia Is Getting A Star Wars Festival
In a drought-ravaged rural community far, far away... locals are proving they're a force to be reckoned with by launching a Star Wars-themed festival in Coonabarabran -- Australia's astronomy capital.
Coona's progress association, 2357 Partnerships, scored a $27,500 grant from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) to help launch the event.
“There were quite a few people passionate about Star Wars and we were looking at connecting with astronomy events because we have Australia's first Dark Sky Park right next door,” Vivian Evans, the Community Development Coordinator of 2357 Partnerships, told 10 daily.
“We have StarFest but it’s more for the ‘science-y’ people, but we felt this is another way to draw in tourists and add a fun dimension, even if it’s still a bit geeky,” she laughed.
The organising committee was unable to use ‘Star Wars’ in the title despite reaching out for permission, but have come up with a creative name.
We’re calling it the ‘Dark Sky Awakens Festival’ and it’ll be the weekend after May the fourth because that's a Monday this year.
Planning is travelling as fast as hyper space, with tickets already open for a number of events, one featuring a ‘star man’.
“Our major event is the Intergalactic Ball with a David Bowie cover band,” Evans said.
“The local high school has laser tag and there’s lightsaber lessons.
“We also have a ‘Goose Chase’ that’s a fun race using a mobile app that will take people on a tour through the community, which is important for connecting people, places and lots of our business.”
Coonabarabran had been severely hit by drought, with emergency bores needed to supply water to the rural community of about 2,500 people.
It's also challenged by rural decline and a controversial bypass that could impact the town's tourism.
“The town was at a point where you couldn’t even use water in town,” Evans explained.
“We’ve also got a bypass coming, which is something of a concern and we’ve had a number of businesses closing down because they’re just getting to retirement age and getting young generation to step in is a bit tricky.”
Their hardships were a key factor in being chosen for the grant.
“Drought has been extensive, long-running and really crippling,” Emma Thomas, the FRRR Program Manager Recovery and Resilience Programs, told 10 daily.
“It doesn’t finish as soon as it rains, it takes a long time to claw back for businesses operating at half capacity or less (and) it takes years to get back up to full production.”
Seeing the community’s Star Wars idea, it was clear 'The Force' is strong in this one.
“This event will be cleverly created to draw on the features Coonabarabran offers, like the Siding Springs Observatory."
Events like this boost morale, bring people together and provide an economic boost for their economy.
Similar events, such as the famous Elvis Festival in Parkes and Abba Festival in Trundle have proved successful.
They're hoping to avoid 'wookie' mistakes.
“We want to do it really well and it’ll only grow from here. May the force be with us,” Evans said.