Waterskiing events at Moomba
|Begins||Labour day long weekend (second Monday in March)|
|Attendance||1.7 million (record - 1996)|
|Organised by||City of Melbourne|
Moomba (also known as the Moomba Festival) is held annually in Melbourne, Australia. Run by the City of Melbourne, it is Australia's largest free community festival, and a Melbournian tradition dating back half a century. The event is celebrated over four days, incorporating the Labour Day long weekend, from Friday to the second Monday in March. Moomba is culturally important to Melbourne, having been celebrated since 1955, and regularly attracts up to a million people, with a record attendance of 1.7 million set in 1996.
In 2003, the event was renamed Melbourne Moomba Waterfest and is centred on the Yarra River.
Traditional events include the Moomba parade, crowning of Moomba monarchs, fireworks displays, carnivals in the gardens along the river, river activities including watersports, water floats and the birdman rally, as well as live music and bands.
In 1951, Australia celebrated fifty years of Federation with a parade and the staging of the theatre production "An Aboriginal Moomba: Out of the Dark". In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II visited the city for the first time as reigning monarch, and the City Development Association and the Melbourne City Council proposed an autumn carnival to be known as "Moomba". A committee was formed in July, 1954 to organise and fund the event, successfully allocating £10,000 to its inaugural running. Before the event's first year, controversy was created when Labor Councillor Frank Williams resigned from the committee, branding the planned carnival as a "Bourke street joke for the benefit of shopkeepers". A promotional theme song "Come to Melbourne for the Moomba" was written by Jack O'Hagan.
The festival was originally named Moomba by organizers in the belief it was a native word meaning 'let's get together and have fun.' Credit is usually given to Bill Onus, a unionist and member of the Australian Aborigines' League for proposing the term, which he used in a play, Aboriginal Moomba in 1951. In 1969 Luise Hercus glossed the word mum (rhyming with 'vroom') as meaning 'bottom, rump', and suggested mum-ba meant something like 'bottom and..', and had been introduced from Healesville usage as a joke. In 1981 Barry Blake analysed the word as combining as mum (anus) and –ba, a locative suffix meaning ‘at, in, on'. This would give the sense of 'up your bum/arse'.
Onus himself, according to his daughter-in-law, who said she had heard the story from Onus's wife Mary, had picked up the word from a word list of indigenous terms. Some say he did it to get back at the city council for having deliberately upstaged the traditional Labour Day march with a popular carnival. Lin Onus, his son, stated that indeed his father had intended to play a prank in passing on the word with this sense.
The first Moomba was a 15-day festival officially opened on 12 March 1955 by the State Governor, Sir Dallas Brooks. The inaugural programme included a fireworks display, parade, vintage car display, Henley rowing regatta, river floats including a "Lord Mayor's houseboat", cycling race, tennis at Kooyong, concerts including performances by the Victorian Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic choir, crowning of the Queen of Moomba and riverside carnival. 25,000 turned out to watch the inaugural Moomba parade down Swanston Street. The first Moomba was heavily criticised by Melbourne's conservative establishment, including the Anglican Church, which at the time claimed it was hedonistic and embodying social decay. Council responded to the criticism citing that Moomba was intended to be a festival for families and as such is reinforcing family values in society.
After the 2016 Moomba festival fireworks there was a large-scale brawl in and around Federation Square in Melbourne's Central Business District, largely between members of two gangs, Apex and Islander 23.
A parade (or "procession") and floats through the streets of Melbourne have been a key part of the Moomba festival since its beginning. Each year it attracts over 100,000 people to Melbourne's city centre as well as being shown on free-to-air television in Melbourne.
The floats have an annual theme, usually an elaboration on "Let's get together and have fun", the avowed mission and vision statement of Moomba and are usually from sister cities (of which Melbourne has six), schools and community groups. They also promote some aspect of the arts, like singing, dancing, or design. Swanston Street is the traditional home of the floats and spine of the city and horse- or tractor-drawn floats use the tram tracks. Decorated trams are sometimes also featured.
In 2001, the parade came under media controversy when a French Troupe and Melbourne's Snuff Puppets had floats with naked people covered in body paint.
The Moomba monarchy has been one of the most celebrated and controversial components of the festival over the years.
The Moomba Monarch crowns for 2010 and 2011 were handcrafted by Paris Kyne Master Milliner. 1989 also had a time where Moomba also included a Prince and Princess of Moomba which were two children who applied through a radio competition on radio station 3KZ with resumes and auditions to perform paid work with the Life. Be in it. dancers in the Alexander Gardens every day. These two winners were Mark Monroe & Katherine.
Fireworks are a big part of the Moomba festival and large displays occur on every night of the festival .The fireworks are above the Yarra river.
A traditional carnival including a ferris wheel are held in the Alexandra Gardens along the river bank. In recent years, the carnival has extended to Birrarung Marr across the river. It is popular with children, and dagwood dogs and doughnut stands line the paths.
Moomba particularly celebrates the Yarra River, which has been much maligned during the history of the city until the last few decades.
Water skiing in the Yarra was introduced to Moomba in 1959.
The festival has featured Chinese dragon boats and the Moomba Showboat.
Among the more popular events is the Birdman Rally, begun in 1976, which adds colour to the festival, and is traditionally held at the Swan Street bridge over the Yarra River. However it has been held only intermittently during Moomba's history. It was stopped for a number of years due to high levels of E. coli contamination of the Yarra. Subsequent clean-ups reduced pollution to acceptable levels and 2004 saw its return. In 2005 the rally was held in the new inner city park, Birrarung Marr, close to its traditional location.
Do-Re-Mi released a single "King of Moomba" in 1987 in reference to the crowning element of the festival.
Eckersley, M. 2012. 'Australian Indigenous Drama'. Tasman Press. Altona.
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