By Angela Norval
Well known for its rich, organic soil and wealth of delicious fresh produce that bursts from it, this year’s Taste Bundaberg Festival is set to be a remarkable showcase of our region, its growers and local businesses.
With this year presented as the biggest and best Taste Bundaberg Festival that the region has ever staged, festival visitors, local or from further afield, will be spoilt for choice.
The full program covers 10 days of unique culinary experiences in iconic locations around the region and provides not only delicious dining opportunities, but educates visitors on where their ingredients come from and even how they can used in unique ways.
Major events including the Pop-Up Polo, the inaugural Banquet on the Bridge, festival favourite Chilli ‘n’ Lime Fiesta at Riverfeast, the Festival Farmers Markets and the Farm Flavours Picnic were well-received.
There is excitement around celebrity chef Poh Ling Yeow, who will work with one of Bundaberg’s top restaurants to deliver a multi-course celebration of location food and drink across the first weekend and host cooking demonstrations.
Through her Local Flavours by Poh event on Saturday 12 June at the Multiplex Sport and Convention Centre, she will also take fresh, local ingredients and produce incredible and unique dishes to tantalise the tastebuds just as they did on MasterChef.
A unique spin on certain events during the festival has seen tickets sell out quickly, including the Banquet on the Bridge, which provides a three-course paired meal and roving entertainers serenading diners amongst the Burnett Traffic Bridge’s expansive arches.
Another popular event on the Taste Bundaberg Festival that is providing an almost educational spin on delicious tastes is the Paddock to Plate Luncheon at HSG at the Gardens on Sunday 13 June.
Visitors will taste their way through the region’s flavours with a three-course dining experience, hear from the producers and listen to their journey of growing fresh produce.
A chance to experience fruits that aren’t likely to be seen on the supermarket shelves is the Tours of the Rare Fruit Orchard on 14 June in the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens incredible Rare Fruit Tree Orchard.
The chance to take a tour through the orchard and learn first-hand about what visitors can grow in their own gardens has also seen this event sell out.
A celebration of food, culture and togetherness will be the focus of the Mon Repos First Nations Dining Experience with Australia’s illustrious Indigenous chef Mark Olive, who will join local chef Joey Caruana to showcase authentic local cuisine on 17 June.
Diners will savour sumptuous local produce as modern dining melds with tradition in a celebration of fire, water and earth at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre.
Bundaberg Tourism CEO Katherine Reid said Taste Bundaberg Festival had been very well supported in the past and this year had been no different.
“While many of the showcase events are booked out, there are still tickets available across the program and the many free events are expected to see large amounts of interest throughout the 10-day event,” she said.
“Consumer behaviour has changed considerably in the last year, and this is reflected in the popularity of Taste Bundaberg Festival and many of the other regional events that have returned in 2021.
“With international travel off the cards, domestic tourism is booming, especially in places like Bundaberg which are within easy driving distance of major capitals like Brisbane.
“People want to support their local communities, and to branch out to explore regional areas where they feel safe and feel that their visitor dollars can make a real difference.
“The whole of the Bundaberg tourism industry has seen a significant upswing in visitation over the past 12 months and Taste Bundaberg Festival is undoubtedly benefitting from this.”
Another contributing factor to the festival’s continuing success is the quality of the experiences being presented, and the growing reputation of the region as one of Australia’s most exciting culinary destination.
“Bundaberg Tourism and the tourism, beverage and agricultural industry have been working tirelessly for years to build Bundaberg’s reputation as a major agricultural hub, as the home to the major drinks brands of Bundaberg Rum and Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, and as the first city on the Southern Great Barrier Reef,” Ms Reid said.
“The region is turning heads across Australia and is proving that an ‘overnight success’ takes persistence, passion and a lot of hard work.
“It is exciting as well to have the new partnership between Bundaberg Tourism, Bundaberg Regional Council and the tourism, culinary industries of the region emerging with such strength through this festival.”
Councillor John Learmonth said the Taste Bundaberg Festival was so successful because it included celebrity chefs alongside a range of fabulous local chefs and producers, as well as free events including the Chilli ‘n’ Lime Festival at Riverfeast and the Taste Farmer’s Market in Alexandra Park.
“There is a wide range of events throughout the 10 days that celebrate the flavours of the region and highlight the diversity of the experiences on offer,” he said.
“It was interesting to see Banquet on the Bridge, which is a first-time event and one that has proved extremely popular, with tickets sold out within minutes of being released.
“The Burnett Traffic Bridge is a significant part of the Bundaberg Region landscape and is an engineering marvel that has stood the test of time.
“Many residents will have crossed the bridge countless times but not many people can say they’ve pulled up a chair and enjoyed the best food and drink our region has to offer between the bridge’s well-known arches.”
To provide a finishing and another interesting spin, Bundaberg’s Pop-Up Polo returns after a huge inaugural event in 2019.
Held on 19 June from 11.30am to 5pm at the Bundaberg Recreational Precinct, it’s an aspirational, interactive and engaging event that will bring award-winning entertainment, glamour, excitement, premium hospitality and the thrill of polo itself.
To view the complete program, visit www.bundabergregion.org/taste/taste-bundaberg-festival.