Get Ready – The 40th Pako Festa is coming in 2022
Preparations are underway for the 40th Pako Festa, which will be held on 26 February 2022.
Pako Festa first began in Pakington Street in 1983, when the Ethnic Communities Council Inc. joined forces with the Geelong West Traders and the Geelong West City Council.
The three organisations had an ambitious idea – a community-driven party that celebrated the region’s diverse cultural communities.
Much has changed since 1983 – the very first Pako Feta attracted 12,000 people and ended with a tug of war!
More recently, the 38th Pako Festa, held in 2020, saw 110,000 people attend, and 5,000 people taking part in the famous Pako Festa street parade and performing across five stages.
These days, the festival is organised by Diversitat and has become the largest free celebration of multicultural communities, art, and culture in Australia with a vibrant, party atmosphere.
That said, a lot remains the same about Pako since the early days – the event has always been by the community, for the community.
It celebrates and highlights the extraordinary contribution of individuals, cultural groups, and multicultural communities in Geelong and across the region.
Luisa La Fornara has been the event’s director since 2004, and says the event encourages the celebration of cultural diversity.
“Pako Festa is about creating a space where it’s safe to share your culture and be yourself,” she said.
The impacts of COVID-19 saw a different Pako Festa format in 2021, but the fundamental elements of the event remained.
Event-goers enjoyed sampling the flavours of the world with dishes from 19 different local ethnic communities, and the fun and entertainment was spread out across Geelong to ensure a COVID Safe event.
There was also an amazing display of 30 community portraits which were projected onto the Geelong West Town Hall every night for two weeks, a spectacle never seen before in Geelong.
The event format for 2022 is still being finalised with the Pako Festa organising committee working closely with the state government.
Diversitat CEO Joy Leggo says that marking the event’s 40th anniversary is important.
“COVID-19 continues to be a reality for us, but we have some really exciting things planned to ensure that we celebrate Pako’s 40th birthday in style,” Ms Leggo said.
“We are really keen to see our global food offering take centre stage again and we want event-goers to enjoy tasting the flavours of the world.”
“We also want people to enjoy the cultural displays, performances and dance, so we are working through how these elements will operate under the events framework set by the Victorian Government.”
“We’re also working on the possibility of a parade this year in some shape or form as we know how much the community loves it each year.”
“We’ll have all the details and a lot more to say very soon.”
Ms La Fornara said Pako Festa was needed more than ever after a challenging year.
“2021 has been a tough time for a lot of people out there, and we know a lot of people will be looking forward to a beautiful day in February where they can catch up with friends and family and enjoy some delicious global food and exciting cultural entertainment.”
To mark Pako Festa’s 40th birthday, the team has also been working on an online history project in the form of an interactive timeline which showcases every Pako Festa from 1983 – 2021.
The project was developed as part of the Committee for Geelong’s Leaders for Geelong program, where a project group created the concept and curated all the Pako Festa archives dating back to 1983.
“It was extraordinary to see a such an important part of Geelong’s history displayed online,” Ms La Fornara said.
“The feedback from the early testing of the project has been overwhelming.”
“People love being able to click on any year from 1983 through until today and see what Pako Festa looked like back then.”
“Each year features a collection of photos, videos, interviews and newspaper articles where available.”
The timeline will launch in early 2022 ahead of the event.
The community is also being given the opportunity to support and be part of the event through a “Friends of the Festa” membership offering.
Members will receive a limited edition cookbook which will mark the 40 years of Pako Festa through some of the most iconic recipes seen at the event since 1983.
In addition to the cookbook, those who support the event through membership will also enjoy early booking access to the 2022 event, along with early access to the online history project, a monthly newsletter and acknowledgement on the Pako Festa website.
“We want people to get something incredibly special with the community-developed cookbook, but it’s also an opportunity for people to support Pako Festa which is a community-led event that is not-for-profit,” Ms La Fornara said.
“The cookbook will make an amazing Christmas gift and people will love having it on their coffee tables, but we also know that people will enjoy getting to cook some of those amazing Pako Festa recipes while learning a bit about each of the 23 ethnic communities which will be featured.”
To purchase a “Friends of the Festa” membership for you or as a gift for someone else, visit pakofesta.com.au/friends. Purchases can be made from mid-December.