The Eaglehawk Dahlia & Arts Festival began as an initiative of a group of Eaglehawk citizens intending to promote the then Borough of Eaglehawk by way of a championship Dahlia Flower Show and mass planting of Dahlias in Canterbury Park, Eaglehawk.
With the support of local growers and a Melbourne district “Dahlia Dig” for tubers by the members of the Rotary Club of Eaglehawk, magnificent beds of Dahlias were established in the Park and the National Dahlia Society Championship Dahlia Exhibition staged in the Town Hall. Enthusiastic community support led to the introduction of a Street Procession and Art Show the following year.
The Festival Committee grew in number and new attractions were added until it became the current festival of Arts and Flowers, totally voluntarily organised, and conducted by a committee comprised of representatives of numerous community bodies, e.g. Rotary, Lions, Y's Men and Y's Service Club (Women), Eaglehawk Citizens Brass Band and local interested people.
The festival is only made possible by the loyal support of the City of Greater Bendigo, local business, family sponsors and by dedicated committee members working voluntarily and untiringly to promote Eaglehawk through the Arts and Tourism. The Festival provides an array of attractions for the whole community, with special emphasis on activities encouraging the artistic, cultural, sporting and social development of young people.
The City of Greater Bendigo assists with in kind support and contributes through the planting and maintenance of the Dahlia gardens in Canterbury Park.
The Rotary Club of Eaglehawk conducts a fund-raising Musical evening and assists the committee with manpower required to set up and dismantle the various exhibitions. Local schools, community groups, church groups and sporting organisations, together with local business enterprises, all take part in the Street Procession and the Y service Club arrange a Gala fair and entertainment in Canterbury Park.
Dahlia & Arts Committee members and helpers teach the young debutantes and their partners, social skills and ballroom dancing for their presentation Ball during the Festival. An Australian-wide Literature Competition is conducted and judged with the assistance of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Eaglehawk Heritage Society arrange exhibitions and walking tours, local groups have fund raising events and retain funds raised to support their various activities. A Folk Art exhibition and Art Show give local artists an opportunity to showcase their skills along with the Flower Show for local gardeners.
The Governor of Victoria, Sir Rohan Delacombe, officially opened the very first festival in March 1972. The unique community spirit and volunteer support for the festival has encouraged the attendance of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Premier Sir Rupert Hamer, Actor Michael Pate, Historian Geoffrey Blainey, TV Presenter Mal Walden, Ms June Bronhill, Governors of Victoria, Sir Brian Murray and Dr. Davis McCaughey, 110 year old local identity Mr. Jack Lockett and Lola Miller AM BEM (Victorian of the Year 1996) to attend as guests of honour to officially open subsequent festivals.
The Dahlia & Arts Festival Committee also conducts the annual FREE Canterbury Carols in the park on the Sunday prior to schools breaking for Christmas. Scouts support their fund-raising activities by selling drinks and local school choirs, adult choirs and Guest artists present items, as well as leading the community in Carol singing. Eaglehawk Citizens Band provides musical support.
This committee continually strives to provide an annual festival of cultural activities and enthusiastically look forward to the exciting opportunity to present a wonderful Festival Spectacular next March.