Some rain did not deter walkers during the Canberra Walking Festival

By Kaitlyn Watson, University of Canberra intern 2019

The 28th annual Canberra Walking Festival was held during the last weekend of March. The festival welcomed a total of well over 400 participants from 17 different countries including Norway, the Netherlands, Russia, the United States and across Australia. Walk-ins were also accepted over the weekend.

Interstate and Russian walkers

The festival experienced its first rain of its 28 year history, but it did not put a damper on the joyful moods of these determined walkers. Even with dark clouds, chilling winds and first drops of rain on Saturday morning, walkers put on their raincoats and marched out of the doors at Albert Hall, to complete various distances walking around the Canberra region. But everyone was pleased to see the sun come out again on Sunday.

For some, this festival was their first; travelling all the way from places such as Russia to see the wonders of Australia, and choosing to take part in the festival partnered with IML and IVV walking associations.

Others such as the Watson family originally from Wollongong, have been attending this festival for over 19 years. The eldest of this family, first saw this event being advertised in the second year it ran and decided to participate as a family to spend time together and be active. Over the years this family has continued to partake in this event, introducing it to their children.

Watson children displaying their medals accumulated over several years walking

Over the weekend, there was a sense of exhilaration and companionship amongst the many walkers. Old friends being reacquainted at registration and the welcome walk on the Friday, and new friendships formed during the longer walks over the weekend. The excitement on the first day of the festival could be felt throughout the whole of Albert Hall, with many greeting the regular volunteers, taking photos with the international flags and showcasing their various medals, pins and awards received from other festivals and walking events.

This annual festival relies solely on volunteers to run the event. The current committee will continue running the festival next year and then Rotary will take over the reigns in 2021. While some of the regular walkers are unsure about how a change in leadership will influence the event, the committee are confident that the event will evolve and grow under Rotary’s stewardship.

This festival has a significant impact on the tourism sector in Canberra. Not only does it bring various international visitors to the region, but it also advertises and showcases the picturesque scenery Canberra has to offer. If this event were to end, Canberra would lose a significant amount of new and repeat international and domestic visitors.

Lithuanian and Swedish walkers

Hopefully this event will endure into the future and will continue to bring international and domestic tourists to the Canberra region, to enjoy the wonders of the Australian Capital while being active and healthy.