STREET festivals like the Marcoola night markets, Lamkin Lane Live in Caloundra and Tramfest in Nambour are taking community-led entertainment on the Sunshine Coast to the next level.
The volunteers behind these events - which sometimes include cafe and restaurant owners who run food stalls at a loss to help feed the throngs - are the unsung heroes of town rejuvenation plans.
When I first moved to the Sunshine Coast, I wondered how a place with such a broad geographic spread could know who it was, so to speak.
The idea that just one shire council could represent places as diverse as Caloundra and Maleny baffled me, and I wondered how each of those sweet towns and suburbs kept their identity.
The answer, it seems, lies in an ability of local communities to coordinate and make things happen at the local level.
The presence of local community events - events that you may or may not hear about if you don't reside in that area -is recognised in some parts, such as Nambour, Maroochydore and Caloundra, as integral to plans for economic revitalisation of these areas.
And boy, is it working.
The monthly Tramfest in Nambour is a fairly recent phenomenon, but by all accounts is hugely successful. When I dropped in to a Tramfest a few months back, it was a hive of activity and everyone I interviewed was a local resident. They may have exaggerated, but people told me the entire town was there.
Tramfest is also a meeting point, bringing the community together and providing a space where locals chill out and catch up, and raise funds for the heritage tramway project (which is now proceeding at speed after $500,000 in federal government funding was announced two weeks ago, providing a major boost to the town).
I'm sure the distinct communities that comprise the Coast have their own highlights and signature events that I've never heard of, too.
I stumbled upon Caloundra's Lamkin Lane Live when it started late last year, pulled together by the Sunshine Coast Creative Alliance and the developer of the Paisley Park Project.
Other events that bring people together might be house parties and gatherings, or larger annual festivals, like Palmwoods' Time Warp Festival.
"It's like in the old days when you met at church on a Sunday and said 'G'day' and caught up with people,” says Michael Shadforth, speaking about Marcoola night markets.
"Food on a Friday night - it brings people together. People encourage each other to go out together and catch up again.”
He's spot on. Street festivals with great food keep a community together.
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