MUCH is made of Warrnambool’s tourism input from the Fun4Kids Festival, whales, horse racing and speedway, but the annual eisteddfod slips under the radar.
For the past 37 years, thousands of competitors travel from across Victoria and South Australia to test their skills in Warrnambool halls during four months of events.
Many of them book accommodation, go to local restaurants and boost the local retail economy.
Some of them, including aria finalists, will go on to make their mark in professional circles.
“People don’t realise what the eisteddfod does for Warrnambool and thousands of young people in boosting their self-esteem and confidence,” committee chairwoman Joy Irvine said.
“We had more than 6000 entries this year across speech and drama, music, aria, dancing, debating and calisthenics.
“It’s a big tourism boost with visitors staying a few days at a time.”
Her team of more than 100 volunteers packed up their notebooks last weekend after the program finished and will soon start preparing for next year’s events.
Most of the main organisers are retirees, some aged in their 80s, giving their time and experience to help schoolchildren show their talents on stage at King’s College, the Masonic Lodge and Mozart Hall.
They finance events, prizemoney and pay adjudicators on a tight budget relying on donations, entry fees and small grants from the city council and state government.
“It’s pretty much a full-time job for us without pay as we run one eisteddfod and then plan for the next,” Mrs Irvine said.