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Ballarat has been enticing tourists with Begonia plants as early as 1870. The plants, originating from South America, were considered to be exotic and something as a novelty. Begonias grew well in the Ballarat climate and so began planned train trips from Melbourne to Ballarat to view the displays. A festival soon evolved over the March long weekend and this began a great tradition. This year the Ballarat Foundation was thrilled to be a part of Ballarat’s iconic Begonia Festival.

The Ballarat Foundation wanted to be a part of the iconic Begonia Festival.

The Ballarat Foundation wanted to add to the experience of the Begonia Festival for the many thousands of families who visit the gardens. One of the key areas we focus on as an organisation is early childhood success, so it seemed fitting that we used the Ballarat Reads program as a focus for the festival. We created a library and reading area in the gardens beneath the huge trees which offered lovely shade and shelter. The books from the Ballarat Reads program were set out for children and parents to read. We also had story time ever hour read by local identities and primary school teachers.

Being involved in the Begonia Festival was such a wonderful way to be a part of our local community. We were able to chat to parents and kids about their experiences with books and we loved hearing parents comment that they used to love reading a certain book as a child. We were also able to interact with some lovely volunteers, many of whom were students from ACU, who came along to help share the joy of reading with the kids who stopped by.

We were also incredibly honoured to develop the adventure trail this year. This is always a highlight for families, especially those with older kids. Solving the clues and finding the hidden treasures is a lot of fun. We hid framed book covers from books featured in the Imagination Library. The clues pointed the kids into the right direction and then they had to search for the framed book cover hidden by the very clever gardeners at the Botanical Gardens. We saw lots of determined kids (and parents!) examining the map and clues, searching for all the hidden frames.

It was also a great opportunity for us to chat with the community about what the Ballarat Foundation do. We chatted to many, many people about one of our programs, Volunteering Ballarat. So many people really want to volunteer in a local community group but don’t know where to start. They were very happy to receive advice and a booklet featuring volunteering opportunities from us.

The parade is always a highlight and this was our second year we were involved. This year we walked in Run For A Cause t-shirts and had our L2P cars driving behind us. It was again an opportunity to show the community what it is the Ballarat Foundation does. We have several programs – L2P Driver Mentor Program, Ballarat Reads and Volunteering Ballarat – and we were able to highlight these programs at the Begonia Festival. We are so thankful to all the volunteers who helped us out, and of course the City of Ballarat who put on this fantastic event for our community.