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Bermagui Tuna Festival programme 1962

Bermagui Tuna Festival programme 1962

Well-known American author Zane Grey’s visit to Bermagui generated much excitement throughout the area in the early months of 1936.  His visit was reported in the Bega District News of 6 January 1936 as well as subsequent issues and in national newspapers.

According to the local newspaper report Mr Grey set up a “big camp” overlooking the bay at Bermagui. His “fishing gear would amaze the average Australian fisherman. The size and variety of his equipment are astounding. He has more than 100 rods…”   In addition, he brought with him two special cooks, two sound specialists and “three moving camera outfits…”   His arrival would have made quite an impact on the small village of Bermagui at that time.

The swordfish season did not begin until February but in the meantime Mr Grey hoped to fish for sharks from the two boats at his disposal – ‘Tin Hare’ and his New Zealand built boat, ‘Avalon’.

The NSW government invited Grey to Bermagui and he certainly put Bermagui “on the map” for big game and tuna fishing, especially when he caught Australia’s first yellowfin tuna. It was also at Bermagui that Australia’s first big marlin (120kg black) was caught.

In the 1960s Bermagui celebrated the tuna season with the Bermagui Tuna Festival. Here’s a photograph if the programme of events from the 1962 festival held in October that year. The festival started on the Friday evening with a ‘Festival Ball’ and ‘Festival Follies’. Prizes for ‘Festival Princess’ and ‘Greenseas Queen’ were awarded. The Festival continued on through the weekend with the best decorated boat, blessing of the fleet, gymkhana, procession, official opening and stock car display on the Saturday, including a £5 prize for the best decorated building in Bermagui. More festivities were scheduled for the Saturday night – a barbeque, mardi-gras and variety concert. Then on the Sunday an aquatic carnival was advertised to take place at Wallaga Lake.

A big festival for a small town of just over 500 people (Ryan, K. B. Towns and Settlements of the South Coast, PhD Thesis (ANU), 1965) which still attracts many visitors and tourists for a spot of fishing. Thank you Zane Grey!

Do you remember the Tuna Festival? Was it held every year? Are there any photographs of a Festival Princess or Greenseas Queen?

Sources:
Bega District News 6 January 1936
Hook line & sinker Bermagui by Steve Cooper, Sunday Herald Sun 13 February 2011
Bermagui Tuna Festival programme 26-28 October 1962.

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