Feast of the Senses

Written by fruit   // 18/01/2006   // 0 Comments

The feast was first conceived in 2004 to introduce local residents to the mouthwatering and colourful world of exotic tropical fruit, vegetables and flowers being ‘trialled’ in the Johnstone shire.WORDS BY RUTH LIPSCOMBE

There were miles of smiles when the staff of the South Johnstone Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries realized that their 2005 “Feast of the Senses” was going to be a roaring success.

Given that:
1. Cyclone Ingrid had dumped record breaking rain on Innisfail the previous evening.
2. Most of the surrounding rivers and creeks were flooded.
3. The highways south to Tully and west to the Atherton Tableland were closed, and the Mulgrave River was threatening to close the highway to Cairns
The decision to call off the event was ‘almost” made.

Fortunately, someone mentioned the resilience of Primary Producers and the residents of the Wet Tropics, so DPI&Fs Pedro O’Connor decided to see who would come. 
And more than 5,000 people did!

The mighty local SES volunteers, who’d offered to organize the parking were ‘gob-smacked’ at the steady stream of Toyota utes, trucks, vans etc filled with umbrella wielding, garbag clad passengers who rolled up. The trusty Toyotas were put through their paces in negotiating flooded causeways, muddy bush tracks and boggy parking spots.

One intrepid stall holder who’d rowed her produce across a flooded creek to her neighbors truck, was horrified when told she’d been watched the whole way by a (roughly) 3 m crocodile!

If it had been a fine day primary producers would have been out working on their property. However they chose instead to seize the opportunity to talk to ‘value adders’, new growers who were promoting unusual fruits, vegetables and spices, visiting politicians, marketers, consumers, chefs etc.

Comments like- “Wow, I’ve never seen/tasted/heard of these goodies”, “Have you tasted this? Just heavenly”, “Mum, buy these, they’re soooo good”, were music to the ears of growers and researchers. One very astute farmer who had (reluctantly) driven his family to the feast, took one look at the jewel like colours, strange shapes and tantalizing smells of the incredible main display and said “we need a new language to talk about these products and the opportunities they will open to the Tropical North.”

DPI&Fs Minister Henry Palasczuk had his flight to Innisfail Airport diverted to Cairns because of the downpour, the then endured a harrowing 100 km car trip, crossing the Mulgrave River 10 minutes before the rising flood waters closed the Bruce Highway bridge. Being one of the feasts most ardent supporters, he quickly regained his cool after trying some of Jeff the Chefs great tucker, and was ready to help the locals celebrate the magnificent display of exotic tropical fruits, vegetables, flowers, ‘value added produce’, art, etc etc. The list of products and participants is endless.

Organizers have been notified that they are in the running for the Guinness Book of Records, “Most Varied “ fruit salad. The mixture included bush fruits contributed by traditional owners. I’ve since heard that the DPI&Fs staff and Art Deco volunteers have vowed to never eat fruit salad again!

The community recognized the importance of the feast to the local economy and the social coherence of the shire by voting the 2004 Feast of the Senses the “Event of the Year” for the shires Australia Day Award in 2005.

Well done to the principal organizers – DPI&Fs Pedro, Sonia and Roger and staff, all the volunteers, staff of Johnstone Shire Council, SES, Chamber of Commerce, Art Deco members. Art Society, Growcom, growers, sellers, entertainers, buyers, cooks, value adders, tourists, neighboring towns, and to the people of Innisfail etc, etc. You did us proud!

R.A. Lipscombe
Innisfail.

This years “Feast of the Senses” will be held in Innisfail on Sunday March 19th 2006.


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