Melbourne’s annual Moomba festival has been revived after an announcement was made on Thursday that it would be cancelled.
The City of Melbourne had blamed COVID-19 restrictions and the recent five-day lockdown for the cancellation of the annual Labour Day festival along the banks of the Yarra River.
But less than 24 hours later, Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said cancelling it was a mistake and the message from the community was loud and clear.
“Melburnians want Moomba to proceed,” she said.
Moomba 2.0 will go ahead on the long weekend with a reduced program of events – the annual Birman Rally, parade and water skiing will not be going ahead.
But the Moomba monarchs will be back.
“We worked tirelessly overnight to ensure more events will be put on as part of Moomba 2.0,” she said.
“Listening to the public response, speaking with the Victorian government and receiving so much support from the festival and events sector gave us an opportunity to reimagine Moomba.”
Earlier, Major Events Minister Martin Pakula said he had contacted the City of Melbourne on Thursday night to express his disappointment at the cancellation, which he said was unnecessary and “premature”.
He said the Chief Health Officer had already approved a COVID-safe plan for the event, which would just need to be pared back.
“I’m sure that if you ask the businesses of the CBD and the area around the CBD, whether thousands [of people visiting the area] is better than none, I’m sure they’ll all say that thousands is better than none,” he said.
Events to be spread out across the city
In explaining the original decision to cancel the event, Cr Capp said the logistics of getting rides and other infrastructure into Victoria was made more complicated by the pandemic.
“We’re kind of working moment by moment,” she said.
She said even after the decision to cancel was made, they kept trying to pull it together and were ultimately successful with help from the state government and the major events sector.
“Twenty-four hours can make a big difference in the current environment,” she said.
Cr Capp said the city had always planned to have some events on over the long weekend but it was clear they could not deliver the traditional Moomba with large crowds at two sites.
Instead, the festival will be spread out across the city with carnival rides in Alexandra Gardens and performances in Melbourne’s iconic lanes.
“We will be filling them up with pop-up music performances and street art exhibitions,” Cr Capp said.
There will also be events at Docklands and concerts at the Myer Music Bowl.
City of Melbourne buildings will be lit up in red to “encourage everyone to show their love for Melbourne” and bring the buzz back into the city, she said.