The popular Summer in the Parks program returns to entertain and delight crowds in the great outdoors.

By Marina Williams

As the sun rises to welcome a new season, it can only mean more fun outdoors with Greater Bendigo’s massive Summer in the Parks program.
Think three months of dance classes, swimming, cinemas under the stars and plenty of concerts, just for starters. With a vibrant mix of entertainment, coordinated with input from community groups and organisations, the popular program has been a summer staple for thousands of residents and visitors for the past 15 years.
Last year, more than 20,000 people attended 120-plus events, with this year’s Summer in the Parks again set to feature historical walking tours of the city, come-and-try sports and fitness activities, music nights, markets and fireworks to celebrate and welcome the New Year.
Keeping events free or low-cost ensures as many people as possible can access myriad activities, says Dawn Holland from City of Greater Bendigo’s Tourism and Major Events.
“It’s about people spending time together and being entertained without having to spend a lot of money. It’s a perfect opportunity for families and friends to enjoy the great outdoors and make the most of our beautiful city and region,” Dawn says. “The program is very diverse and there is sure to be something that will appeal to everyone.”
The program kicked off on November 29 with the ever-popular lighting up of the Christmas Tree in Rosalind Park. The festive spirit continues into December with Community Christmas Carols spreading out to six regional sites – Axedale Park, Barrack Reserve Heathcote, Canterbury Gardens, The Garden for the Future, as well as Rosalind Park.
Post the festive season, the emphasis is on relaxation throughout January with outdoor cinema entertainment and Australia Day celebrations that will include free entry to outdoor pools. The outdoor cinema sessions will be held at Elmore, Redesdale, Lockwood South, Axedale and Heathcote.
February is described as ‘getting your groove on’ with live music in parks each Friday evening, along with other fun and interesting events. “Throughout the program, the emphasis remains on togetherness and community,” says Dawn, with council staff and dozens of community groups and organisations involved in its planning and delivery.
“It’s a real community effort, which is why it has grown significantly over the years to include a wider variety of groups. Each year we encourage previous participants to continue and we always welcome new ones.”
Celebrating community spirit is what attracted Fosterville Gold Mine to sponsor this year’s program, says general manager Ion Hann. With more than 85 percent of the organisation’s employees residing in Greater Bendigo, the program provides Victoria’s largest gold producer a welcome opportunity to give something back to the region.
“We are surrounded by and operate amongst small communities and this program is all about bringing communities together, so it fits perfectly with our own social values,” Ion says. “We are very excited to be associated with the program…providing access to free or low-cost community events ensures inclusiveness and provides social opportunities for families, friends and newcomers to our region.”
Adds Dawn: “Promoting healthy living and active lifestyle, as well as inclusivity, is a great opportunity for people to try an activity and participate in outdoor events in a fun and friendly atmosphere.”
Review the Summer in the Parks program at www.bendigosummerintheparks.com or follow the fun at www.facebook.com/BendigoSummerInTheParks