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Chinchilla Melon Festival

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Chinchilla is known as the Melon capital of Australia and in honour of that, the Melon Festival is held every second year. The festival began in 1994 and has grown to become one of the region's most anticipated events.

A quarter of Australia's total watermelon crop is grown in Chinchilla and they are particularly known for their size, colour and flavour. Rock and honey melons are also grown.

The town was established in 1878 as the railway pushed west across the Darling Downs from Toowoomba. Today it's largely reliant on primary production. Agriculture is the community mainstay, with beef, pork, wool and horticulture filling the town coffers.

It's also known for its beautiful petrified wood, known as Chinchilla Red. If you fancy a fossick, visit the Tourist Information Centre for a licence.

The town also has many sporting facilities such as the Chinchilla Weir which is a great venue for watersports and the Condamine River, which runs through town, offers one of the best freshwater fishing spots in Australia.

But back to the Melon Festival. It has every melon-related activity you could think of — melon skiing, melon iron man, Chinchilla pip spitting, melon tossing. There's also melon bungee, melon bullseye, melon ball games and celebrity melon eating, and the big melon weigh-in. But the big news from this year was that John Allwood broke 40 melons with his head in one minute for the Guinness World Record (previous was 36).

The festival is held every two years, usually in February. The next one will be in 2009.

When you are finished with the melons, check out the Chinchilla Folk Museum which specialises in transportation. It has a copy of the first ticket issued by Qantas, working steam engines, a rare three-cylinder engine, extensive displays of dairy equipment and the 1880s Wongongera Slab Cottage.

There's also the Boonargo Cactoblastis Hall which is dedicated to the insect which ate its way through jungles of prickly pear. It is hard to imagine but in the 1920s there were 24 million hectares of Australia covered with prickly pear, which had been introduced in the mid-1800s. The cactoblastis moth was the saviour of rural Australia.

A little known fact is that Chinchilla is the birthplace of Academy Award winner George Miller (Happy Feet). He was born in 1945.

Location

The Western Downs, three hours west of Brisbane.

Cost

Virgin Blue has flights to Brisbane.

One-way fare from;

  • Sydney, $95
  • Adelaide, $129
  • Melbourne, $139
  • Darwin, $189
  • Perth, $275

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are one-way on the Net. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at March 8, 2007, and are subject to change.

More information

Peru's Challenge

Chinchilla Melon Festival
PO Box 556,
Chinchilla 4413
Ph/Fax: (07) 4662 8031
Website: www.chinchilla.org.au
melonfest@westnet.com.au

Chinchilla Tourist Information Centre
Chinchilla Street
Chinchilla 4413
Ph: (07) 4668 9564

Virgin Blue
Ph: 13 6789
Website: www.virginblue.com.au

Results for 2007 Melon Festival
Dermot won the pip spitting competition (5.65m).
Melon Skiing was won by the Grills boys who took 5.87 seconds to ski more than 40m.
Jamie O'Loughlin and Logan McCouat won the Melon Toss (30m).
Chris (17) and Dan (14) Dolbel won the Iron Man in 2.40 seconds.
Celina and Megan O'Leary and AJ Obst and partner took out the Iron Woman honours with a time of five minutes.

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