June 25, 2017
The annual Wondai Country Festival held its second outing at the weekend, and it turned out to be bigger than even the organisers had expected.
This year, Festival organisers added a 10km run, a 21.1km half-marathon and a full 42.2km marathon to the schedule … and extended the event to Sunday morning to accommodate the extra races.
They were rewarded with more than 180 registrations for the new runs, on top of 50 participants in the regular 5km Saturday parkrun and the 70 runners who took part in a 2km community fun run on Saturday morning.
Runners travelled from as far away as Sydney to take part in the longer races.
Marathon winner John Pearson, from Coolum, said it had been a great weekend at Wondai.
The 42.2km was basically a stroll for John, who has represented Australia in 24-hour ultra-marathons of more than 200km in length.
He started the weekend by taking part in Saturday morning’s 5km parkrun with his family members, which he said was a lot of fun.
In fact, John seemed impressed by all the Wondai events.
His son Jack came second in the 10km run through McEuen Forest and his daughter Ashby had fun volunteering as a part-time compere.
“In a lot of big marathons you pay a fortune to be part of an event,” John said.
“You get smashed all over the place. You can’t park the car and you get a ticket when you finish … everybody’s grumpy.
“Here, it’s chilled out … cheap, affordable accommodation, great event, great community.
“You’ve got good local sponsors that got this off the ground and I’m sure like many regional events, it’ll continue to grow.
“I’ll be doing my best to come back and bring others with me next year.
“Finally, a big thank you to all the volunteers!”
Volunteers are key to a big event like the Wondai Country Festival and they were everywhere at the weekend … in Coronation Park, the art gallery, at the marathon finishing line and manning drink stations along the course.
SES volunteers were also out in force, guarding road crossings along the marathon route.
Festival organising committee member Ros Heit, a keen runner, said the committee had decided to add the distance runs this year after the shorter runs received an enthusiastic response last year.
She said the weather had provided great running conditions and the South Burnett Rail Trail was a near-perfect course.
Sponsors for the weekend included Ken Mills Toyota, Bendigo Bank, the Peanut Company of Australia and the South Burnett Regional Council.
Saturday was the Wondai Country Festival’s main day for most people – or, at least, for those sensible enough not to want to run 42km!
Large crowds descended on Coronation Park to enjoy a bumper market day backed up by a non-stop entertainment program that ran from 7:00am through to late afternoon.
The monthly Wondai Markets – which usually attract about 40 stallholders – ballooned to more than 100 stalls for the day.
And the Percy Iszlaub Sound Shell played host to multiple acts ranging from the Stolzenberg Brothers and the Free2Dance Hip Hop Crew, to the Kingaroy State High School Vocal Group, the Proston Line Dancers and St John’s Lutheran School’s whip-cracking team.
Blue Gum Farm TV also turned up with their new show “Koala Rumba”, which delighted their young fans.
There was also an animal nursery to visit as well as some very friendly dingoes from the Durong Dingo Sanctuary.
A late afternoon family concert by Phil and Chris Coad at the nearby Wondai Diggers Club also drew a strong roll-up.
The Wondai Art Gallery, Wondai Timber Industry Museum and Wondai Woodcrafters were open to visitors as CROW-FM hosted tours through their studios across the road.
Caravanners packed out the nearby free short-stay parking area and the Wondai Showgrounds.
“We tried to involve the whole community in this festival, and I think we did that this year,” festival president Elaine Madill said.
“We looked at what we had available and tried to get as many people involved as we could.
“It’s really marvellous what you can do when everyone pulls together to be part of the same thing.
“I think everyone did Wondai proud, and next year we plan to make it bigger and better again.”