A flash of pink, red, purple here. A splash of gold, white and orange there. A bright blue sky above. A symphony of vibrant and varied music echoing all around. Tempting fragrances beckon your nose, making your mouth water! That and so much more. Yup. That’s just a small glimpse of the Pako Festa for you.
Starting in 1983, where it attracted a crowd of 12,000, Pako Festa has become the largest free celebration of cultural diversity in Australia, now attracting at least 100,000 enthusiasts come to experience several different cultures in one place on a single day.
Proudly hosted by Diversitat, a not-for-profit association, the festivities take place along Pakington Street, the multicultural heart of Geelong, and hosts the union of 35 separate ethnic community groups, along with 50 local community groups, including schools, bands and sports clubs, in celebration of diversity, colouring the area in its unique brightness and excitement.
Food stalls from innumerable places are lined up along the street. Foods from a variety of countries, such as France, Lithuania, Nigeria, Russia, India, Indonesia, Scotland, Italy, Iran, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Greece and many more are lined up…a chance, a true feast for your taste buds. How about some nice Ćevapi Pie, a Bosnian treat? Have it with meat, cheese or (especially for vegetarians) have a combo of cheese and spinach! Bigos and Kopytka from Poland will surely make you hungry for more! Let’s not forget the snowcones and Yakitori Chicken Skewers from Japan! And for all you butter chicken lovers, your wish has been granted too! But one of the most unique qualities about this is the fact that many stalls give their recipe cards. Now one needn’t wait to experience the same delicacy for a year. Rather, you can visit the world in your very own kitchen.
The famed Pako Festa Parade begins at 11 am on the intersection of Waratah and Pakington Streets and ends on Autumn street, lasting for around an hour. It is at 12pm that the entertainment is brought onstage. There are several stages set up, with an assortment of performances lined up; the West Park Stage, Bank Of Melbourne Stage, Family Entertainment Precinct West Town Hall, Petrel Hotel Stage and Geelong Folk Music Club Stage will be hosting a number of performances to impress and entertain the crowds of admirers.
The streets are coloured with new and exciting ethnic dances. In 2020, for instance, the performances of the Andalucia Spanish Dancing Group, Caribay Dance Group and Linas- Geelong Lithuanian Dance Group are to be seen. And these are just to name a few! Let’s not forget the amazing music that will echo the air! Beyond Nirvana Music Aus and their range of typical Bollywood to ghazals and beyond, The Quick Sixes with their rock n’ roll as well as Super Mande Percussion!
Pako Festa prides itself as being a free event; it is also access friendly allowing people of all abilities to share the enriching experience of multiculturalism. When you come for Pako Festa, you are guaranteed to leave the fest with a smile on your lips, a song in your heart and a skip in your step.
It all kicks off on Saturday 29 February at 9am. Be sure to check out more details of events on www.pakofesta.com.au.
Written by Aparna Pitale
Photo by Chrissie Francis