Pako Festa on the move

(Supplied) 206035_05

Ash Bolt

Pako Festa will be back in 2022, but it will look a lot different to usual with the festival to move from Pakington Street.

Multicultural organisation Diversitat has announced the 40th edition of the street festival will be shifted away from its traditional home to the Northern Community Hub in Norlane due to COVID-19 requirements.

The festival will include the traditional food stalls, a celebration of diverse cultures, entertainment and a new twist on the traditional parade.

The parade was cancelled for the first time in its history in 2021, with a reduced format showcasing different cuisines and entertainment around Geelong taking its place.

Diversitat chief executive Joy Leggo said moving back to have the community come together in one place for the festival was the perfect way to celebrate Pako Festa’s 40th anniversary.

“We are thrilled to mix things up next year and offer a new twist on what has always proven to be a very successful public event for Geelong,” she said.

“Next year we will feature a large stage with a ‘traditional costume catwalk’ to allow our communities to proudly show off their colourful cultures to the wider communities of Geelong.”

Ms Leggo said using the Northern Community Hub would allow for a safe but fun event.

“We are thrilled about hosting this event at its new location as it opens up a myriad of possibilities,” she said.

“The format for this ‘new look’ event strikes the right balance – it’s one big celebration at a key site for Geelong’s diverse communities, while still ensuring that we can run a safe event that complies with all state government requirements.”

Sharing the news on social media, the Pako Festa committee said it wasn’t possible to hold the festival safely on the streets as usual, but the change in format wouldn’t be permanent.

“We can’t wait to get the event back to Pakington Street – hopefully in 2023 – as soon as the regulations and restrictions ease, we intend to bring it back to its original location.

“Change is inevitable these days and with COVID-19 and vaccinations playing a key role in public facing events, we need to ensure that safety is our number one priority for all event patrons.

“Until we can bring it home to Pakington Street, we will make the most of this new opportunity for Pako Festa to be in this fantastic new location.”

The Northern Community Hub is a significant location for Geelong’s diverse communities, with the federal government establishing the British Migrant Hostel on the site in mid-1940s.

The site accommodated migrants from many different nationalities and was later renamed the Norlane Hostel, with the site acting as a temporary home to thousands of migrants in the 1950s and 1960s.

“In many ways, we see this as Pako Festa returning home, back to a significant site for Geelong’s diverse communities and a location that allows us many possibilities,” Ms Leggo said.

“Our plans are still being finalised, and we are working very closely with the state government and ensuring our event format is flexible to adapt to COVID restrictions as they change.

“People won’t need to book online to attend the event, and as always, Pako Festa is a free community event.”

Pako Festa will be held on February 26, with all attendees required to be fully vaccinated.

To mark the 40th Pako Festa, 40 portraits featuring Geelong’s diverse communities will be hung in Market Square as a free public exhibition, while the Pakington Street arts trail will also return for 2022.

Pako Festa is also creating a cookbook to celebrate the event’s 40th birthday, featuring some of the most popular dishes from Geelong’s diverse communities served at Pako Festa since 1983.