WUNTA made a triumphant return to a cordoned-off Liebig Street last night, six years after the Friday street market was ditched in favour of alternative festivities.
Hundreds of people rolled through the Koroit and Timor street entrances with warm sunny conditions enhancing crowd numbers, according to organisers.
The city’s laneways featured prominently for the first time with a mural painted by artist Nathan Pye over the course of the evening alongside live music and performance-based activities.
The South West TAFE graphic design teacher had managed to cover a laneway wall with a mural background early on in the evening and said he was pleased with the response from passers-by.
“There’s a fair bit of space to cover but the journey getting there is part of the fun of it,” Mr Pye said.
“People have been walking past, checking it out. It’s great to generate interest in public art and sort of combine it with an event that’s relaxed and involves the whole community.”
Wunta Fiesta has been staged since the mid-1980s with Liebig Street generally used as a focal point, originally with a street parade and then a street market by the early 1990s.
The main street festivities were ditched after a poor turnout in 2008 but community leaders believed this year’s event was a welcome return.
Warrnambool citizen of the year Russ Goodear said the return to the main street made sense and the gold coin donation was affordable for young families and pensioners.
“It’s like a return to the good old days. People wanted to get back to the main street,” he said.
“You catch up with a lot of people you haven’t seen in years. I think it was the right time to return to Liebig Street. The other events were OK but they weren’t the same.”
Adding at touch of humour to the event was a “waiter’s race” at the restaurant end of Liebig Street between Premier Denis Napthine and Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh.
Cr Neoh was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and trousers while Dr Napthine was clad in more sporting attire, something which may have given the Premier an advantage in the home straight, winning in the last few metres.
Geelong’s Marie Kennedy said she was impressed by the community spirit displayed at the street party, noting that larger cities did not have the same degree of friendliness and hospitality.
“Everyone’s very friendly and mixing well,” she said.
“I remember going to Wunta in the late 80s, not quite sure of the year and thought it was fantastic back then. Warrnambool puts on a really good show.”