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The Real Spring
Citrus sculptures, festival feasts, and gardens galore – Griffith celebrates the arrival of spring in style
Words and Images by: HELEN TAYLOR

From 13-27 October Griffith bursts into life for its annual Griffith Spring Fest, with miraculous open gardens hosted by knowing locals, hopon hop-off garden bus tours, a family friendly LINX launch party, a Spring Fest feast to be held at Calabria Family Wines, the Griffith Multicultural Festival, a long lunch at Piccolo Family Farm, and of course, its famed display of curious Real Juice Company Citrus Sculptures.

“This is our flagship event bringing thousands of visitors to town,” exclaims Georgina Horton, Griffith City Council’s events coordinator. “Our citrus sculptures are unique to Australia, which is fantastic for Griffith. They create such a unique experience for our visitors, that travel from all over Australia to view them first hand.”

All’s well in the garden ... A beautiful setting!

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU ORANGES...

The larger-than-life Griffith citrus sculptures were first unveiled in 1995 – at the city’s inaugural Festival of Gardens – after a local resident was inspired by a Women’s Weekly article featuring the Fête du Citron in the French town of Menton. “Now, we have new sculptures joining every year and this year is the most we’ve had,” says Georgina. “I can’t wait to see some of the new designs come together alongside some of the well known sculptures.”

For the past six years, the 100,000 oranges needed for the sculptures have been supplied by Griffith business Real Juice Company. “Citrus farms and growers from around Griffith contribute largely to our business. This gives people a great insight  into what our growers and horticulturists actually do,” says Real Juice Company managing director, Tony Taliano. “We’re very grateful for their hard work and feel like this is our way of giving back to the community.”

Tony, who lives with his family in Griffith, tells me his children get a real buzz from helping to build the sculptures, and that he hopes to keep the tradition alive into the future.

Over 70 of these unique citrus sculptures are on display from October 13-26

Designing and building 70 sculptures is a huge job, says Georgina, and one that an army of Griffith volunteers has been involved in. She tells me more than 700 volunteers help to build the sculptures, from schools and community groups to local businesses and multi national companies, with volunteers ranging  from six-years-old to 70-years plus. “Construction day is such a fantastic day that brings the whole community together to create these larger than life sculptures and kicks off Spring Fest. And the volunteers continue to keep their sculptures tidy and intact over the two-week period so our visitors can have the best experience!”

The citrus sculptures which line Banna Avenue include a grand piano, talking robot, reclining chook and a castle just to name a few. Georgina recommends that visitors take in the sculptures whilst browsing the street’s enviable strip of boutiques, gift shops, galleries and Italian cafés.

N.B. No oranges are harmed in the making of the citrus sculptures, and almost all oranges are returned to Real Juice Company for juicing.

 One of seven wonderful local gardens open to the public from October 18-20

PETAL TO THE METAL

The citrus sculptures aren’t the only attraction at the Griffith Spring Fest. An important part of the festival is showcasing the many local gardens which come to life at this time of year, and the work of the gardeners who tend to them year-round.

This year, Georgina tells me the open gardens will range from small town gardens, with neatly trimmed hedges and creative ideas for turning tight spaces into wild havens, to expansive rural gardens, where visitors will be overwhelmed by the huge potential of taming and nurturing such spaces. Gardening enthusiasts can visit a garden island, accessible via a bridge over a self-made moat, and gardens set amongst orange orchards and vineyards.

Some of the gardeners opening their gates are veterans, with one exhibitor showing her garden for the 16th year, during which time it’s survived two droughts and two floods, but other gardeners are first time exhibitors, Georgina tells The Wanderer.

Like the citrus sculptures, a huge amount of work by local volunteers goes into creating and maintaining the gardens. “Let’s not forget that the fantastic gardens on show sometimes take years to be ready to showcase and are maintained through all seasons,” says Georgina. “This year we really want to showcase the local talent we have here.”

Catering (morning, afternoon tea and lunch) will also be available at most of these wonderful gardens. (Refer to the program or website for more details.)

Yet another majestic local garden

As well as open gardens, there’ll be talks and workshops provided by experts, on topics ranging from growing plants for skin care, to  making DIY bird baths and worm farms. “The gardeners are full of knowledge, and they’ll be offering their own tours and hand made products like bird houses and potted succulents” says Georgina. For RVers who are tired of driving, there’ll be hassle-free bus tours to ferry visitors from garden to garden, accompanied by local tour guides.

FOOD AND DRINK

No festival in Griffith would be complete without food and wine to accompany the festivities. Griffith, thanks to its Mediterranean climate and nourishing water of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, is often referred to as the food bowl of Australia, with its reputation for great wine, prunes, salami, rice and citrus. And its multicultural makeup, with locals of more than 70 nationalities, including Italian, Indian, Afghani and Pacific Communities, make it a hub for international and fusion cuisine.

For two weekends, visitors to Griffith can enjoy long lunches and spring feasts, as well as a Friday night street party. At the LINX Launch Party, soak-up the atmosphere of Banna Avenue at night, with live music, beer and cider, a Spanish paella station, street food, night markets, and activities and entertainment for children.

Or feast to your heart’s content at the Botanica Spring Fest Feast, a new and unique celebration of the season experienced through food and wine that the glorious Riverina has to offer.

Botanica is an explosion of colour and flavour- some of which are very  bold and daring but will remain approachable whilst leaving that tasty lasting impression.

A local almond orchard

 Botanica will be held at the picturesque and widely renowned winery, Calabria Family Wines with wine selections provided by the winery as well. 

The evening will consist of arrival signature canapé’s by Chef Roderick and wine for the guests as they wander and browse works of art displayed by local artists some of which will be created especially for Botanica.

For the main portion of the night, you will be seated on a gloriously long table outside in a clear  marquee where you can watch as the sun sets and turns to bright night stars while feasting on a 2 course meal designed and executed by Chef Roderick utilising the best of what our regional produce has to offer. Followed by a dessert course showcasing the hand made gelato of Chef Ben and the Team at Zecca Handmade Italian Griffith.

Calabria Family Wines will be in abundance as well as Australian Beer Co refreshing frothy numbers. Acoustic music provided by the talented Jones Trio will entertain and lull you into a blissful state in the background for the duration of the event.

Reggie P’s Catering & BBQ are breathing a new life into a time honoured event, this is not one to be missed!

Botanica- The Spring Fest Feast is an Over 18’s Only Event.

You can also spend a relaxing afternoon at the Piccolo Family Farm Long Lunch, with its 18-acres of citrus orchards, a two-acre vegetable garden, and two-acres of lawn with an historic stone farmhouse.

Aside from festival events, Georgina recommends that visitors to Griffith make time to visit its many wineries and vineyards to taste the varied and delicious wines the region has to offer. She also suggests a visit to the Catania Fruit Salad Farm to experience life on a fruit-salad farm. “More than 60 types of fruit and nut trees are grown on this family block” she says. “A tour with Sharon is both informative and entertaining and you’ll leave knowing all about the history of the region."

This year’s LINX Launch Party will get into full swing 


Tags: Griffith NSW New South Wales Wineries Garden Citrus Festival Oranges Fruit Murrumbidgee Sculpture Sydney Lake Wyangan Vineyards Wine Food Farm
Category: Features
Written: Sun 01 Sep 2019
Printed: September, 2019
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FAST FACTS

Griffith is 575km from Sydney along the Hume Highway Burley Griffin Way, and 366km from Canberra.

Griffith is an RV Friendly Town. There is free camping at The Willows, a grassed park on the bank of the main canal, just a short walk to Banna Avenue for dinner or breakfast. The park offers water, toilets, BBQ area and a dump point. Travellers are welcome to stay one night.

There is a free three-night camping option at Lake Wyangan with great water views across the lake, there are walking tracks, a toilet block, BBQ and a boat ramp.

There is also RV parking around the Griffith Visitor Information Centre, located at the corner of Banna and Jondaryan Avenues, where staff can help plan your time in Griffith.

Visit www.visitgriffith.com.au