“IF you build it they will come,” says creative director of the centenary of Canberra Robyn Archer – and come they did, in the hundreds and thousands, to celebrate a birthday Canberrans won’t forget anytime soon.As far as parties go, they don’t get much bigger – and with music, entertainment and smiles everywhere you looked, it was a day to counteract recent backlash that Canberra has “no soul,” says Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.
“You see what’s around us, how many people are here, and it puts an end to that argument,” she said.
Roving activities on the north side of Lake Burley Griffin ranged from the fun to the plain hair-raising: hairdressing show Sienta la Cabeza was a crowd-pleaser as brave Canberrans left the stage with green, yellow and pink hairdos, all teased to perfection.
Performances from the royal military college band, Paul McDermott and The Gadflys kept crowds entertained, while children had fun trying to lift giant blow up letters spelling “Welcome” and watched giant ants stalk by.
“Where’s your mob from” saw people write their birth place on huge boards, with etchings ranging everywhere from Brazil, Canada and Waramanga.
Pat Bailey, of Forde, was in awe of the atmosphere, saying she “had never seen anything like this” in Canberra.
“I guess I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t expect this many people here, it’s awesome,” she says.
“I think it really shows how special Canberra is to people, it’s a great turnout.”
For Patrick Harris, of Belconnen, there was one highlight he was “extra excited” for.
“I brought my family here and we’ll stay for the whole day, but we’re definitely hanging out for the fireworks,” he says.
And he wasn’t alone – according to Centenary volunteers people started setting up at prime viewing locations from 3pm onwards.And while the scorching 28 degree weather didn’t crash the party – it did mean ice-cream and drink stalls were kept busy all day.
Eleven year old Michael McAlista said he wasn’t keen on the heat but “loved the music and boats.”
“I like that there’s lots of people here, it’s fun, I’m trying to keep cool,” he says.
And it’s not a party without a celebrity spotting – volunteers say opposition leader Tony Abbott was spotted darting in and out of the crowds.