McGowan opens Shore Leave Festival

Edward ScownGeraldton Guardian
Premier Mark McGowan.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

It’s turned out to be a delayed debut thanks to a COVID-19 lockdown and the fallout from cyclone Seroja, so it’s a “shore” bet the community can’t wait to get a taste this weekend of its new festival celebrating Mid West produce, culture and history.

The Shore Leave festival officially starts today and runs until Monday.

Premier Mark McGowan was in town to see the unofficial start last night, saying the festival would be an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Geraldton and the Mid West’s rich history.

“Thousands of visitors are expected to attend the four-day event, providing an important boost for the local economy,” he said.

“I encourage everyone to get along to support local businesses, many of which were significantly impacted by tropical cyclone Seroja earlier this year.”

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said industry had taken up the challenge to create an impressive festival.

“Occasions like this bring people together into our regions and enable them to share their unique assets, generating a boon for local businesses that will last long after the last stall is packed away,” she said.

With the Mid West fishing industry contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the State’s economy and producing world-class produce, Fisheries Minister Don Punch said Shore Leave would be an example of the industry’s “resilience and ingenuity” over the past 18 months of the pandemic.

The State Government contributed $300,000 to the festival, providing funds for an extensive line-up of live music and exhibitions.

The event was initially slated for May, but it had to be postponed because of a COVID-19 lockdown in Perth and the cyclone Seroja aftermath.

While the Premier could not stick around for the Abrolhos long-table lunch, it is expected to be a highlight of the festival, with local seafood prepared by Margaret River chef Brendan Pratt.

If you’re not so keen on paying at least $495 for lunch, you can still get some fresh Abrolhos seafood, right off the boat.

Kent Stanton is one fisherman who will be selling freshly caught lobster specially for the festival.

He expects to sell 500 of them over the weekend.

Back-of-boat sales will be on at Fisherman’s Wharf tomorrow and on Sunday from 9am-4pm or until sold out.

Mr Stanton has been fishing Geraldton waters for 37 years, taking over the business his father started in 1972. “It’ll be a good public experience ... we’ll have a chef down there cooking them up,” he said.

The 58-year-old has lived in Geraldton his whole life and said during his years in the industry, fishing in Geraldton had only improved.

He works with his son Rydell, who he’s hoping will take over, just as he did.

“I’m trying to impart all my knowledge on him, which isn’t taking long,” he said.

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