COOKTOWN came alive on the weekend with colourful floats, diesel fumes, fireworks, a healthy dose of competitive spirit, bucket loads of culture and a sprinkle of larrikin fun for the 44th annual Discovery Festival.
Despite grey clouds and a few light showers, there were huge crowds for the festival’s biggest day on Saturday.
Organised by Cook Shire, the annual event is one of the largest in the region, bringing hundreds of visitors to town.
“The community and its history are the reason the festival began in 1979,” council’s tourism, arts and events manager Sally Eales said.
“Four decades later we continue to proudly showcase our shared heritage and rich Indigenous and European history.”
As well as regular festival favourites, such as the spaghetti eating competition, which was booked out within five minutes, and the re-enactment of Captain Cook’s stay at the Endeavour River in 1770, several new events proved to be instant hits with the crowd.
“The bush dance at the Shire Hall was the highlight event with 110 people stamping their feet to the tunes of Whiskey Boat band,” Ms Eales said.
“The pedicabs from Cairns were also a crowd favourite, together with the spectacular fireworks display over the Endeavour River.
“The addition of the stage in Lions Park was well received with a range of entertainment on show all weekend including singers and dancers.”
The Big Run for Little Athletics, organised by the Cooktown Geckos Little Athletics Club, attracted runners from across the region – all of them hoping to share in the $10,000 prize pool.
The biggest money went to the winners of the gruelling 4km Goliath of Grassy Hill run, with first going to Atherton’s Liam Madin with locals Will Bird and Morgan Slykerman taking second.
Jess Darvell celebrated her birthday a day early, taking out the women’s division, followed by Theresa Munce and Mel Thomason, while Clive Tucker and Jimmy Tapau had podium finishes in the men’s masters and Bernie Wallace and Minnie McGibbon were crowned first and second in the women’s masters.
The visiting Turner family also had a great day out, taking out first and third in the junior males and first in the junior females.
The 1km kids dash was won by Natalie Treloar and Maia Pensio, with Maia backing it up for another win in the 2km open fun run, alongside Grace Raleigh, and two more of the Turner family also having podium finishes.
Another new star on the program was the chunder-inducing Unfenced Asylum Challenge, organised by the West Coast Hotel.
Nine teams of three competed in the inaugural event, which involved sculling a beverage before a main street sprint with several tricky check points along the way, scoffing a soggy pie at the halfway point, and finishing by swilling another can.
There were laughs aplenty, and a few lunches lost, before the inaugural champions were declared to be the Madin family, whose sizzling speed (despite all three team members having competed in the fun run that morning) put a gap between them and the competition.
All the sweat, some tears and possibly even a little blood that went into the dozens of street parade entries made for a colourful, noisy spectacle on Saturday, complete with a town crier and Chinese dragons.
The best in parade went to Barrier Reef Childcare’s giant decorated truck, runner-up was the swim club, the best school was Cooktown State School, best community group was the Cooktown kindy and the most creative individual was Nikalai Gibson.
“The 2023 festival was a fantastic success thanks to the continued support of the local community groups, businesses, organisations and volunteers who make the event happen every year,” Ms Eales said.
“A big thank you to all those hard-working people!”