We grew up with Mary Poppins as the quintessential English nanny, widely known through Disney’s 1965 movie. So, it was intriguing to learn that the carpetbag-carrying, umbrella-wielding nanny was the creation of a girl born in Maryborough, Queensland in 1899 and later raised in Bowral, New South Wales.
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The acclaimed Australian journalist, Valerie Lawson released Mary Poppins She Wrote: The True Story of Australian Writer P. L. Travers, Creator of the Quintessentially English Nanny. More of her tale came to light in the 2013 Disney film Saving Mr Banks where we learned that P L Travers was the pen name of Helen Lyndon Goff and Travers was her father’s first name.
The annual Mary Poppins Festival is believed to be first in the world to celebrate Mary Poppins and the success of her creator.
Sing-a-long with A Spoonful of Sugar!
Maryborough’s riverside parks and heritage streetscapes provide a perfect setting for the festival with a range of other magical Mary experiences guaranteed to delight both young and old.
The best of the festival
During the June-July School Holidays Maryborough celebrates with the 6th Mary Poppins Festival taking place over a week. If you only visit for one day make it Sunday to experience the best of the festival.
The annual festival held during the first week of July is a delight for both young and old (Photo: marypoppinsfestival.com.au)
This is the world’s only Mary Poppins festival and the colourful, fun event attracts visitors from around the world. There’s a Nanny Pram Race (with very high standards expected) and a challenging Chimney Sweep Dash. There are characters from the Mary Poppins story mingling with the crowds and members of the public are also welcome to dress up to be part of the fun.
Sidewalk artists, professional street theatre performers, jugglers, Penny Farthing bicycles, vintage cars, many workshops, a kite display and a grand costume parade are all part of the crowded program.
Vintage cars on display in history-rich Maryborough
Maryborough is worth a visit at any time of the year. Once Queensland’s busiest port it boasts a lot of grand historic buildings from schools and civic buildings to delightful old pubs. The important role role the port played in opening up Queensland is revealed in names such as Wharf St, the Customs House, the Bond Store and the Waterside Workers’ Hall.
Maryborough is filled with tributes to Mary Poppins during the festival
Make sure you get a photo the Australian Joint Stock Bank at 331 Kent St. This was the bank P L Travers’ father managed and where she was born (upstairs). It’s no longer a bank but there is a life-sized statue of Mary Poppins outside which was erected in 2005.
Queens Park that spills down to the Mary River is a gorgeous spot for a picnic under the giant Banyan tree. The quaint octagonal Rotunda and its surrounding area is one of the main locations of the festival.
The Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum at 106 Wharf St is remarkable with one of the best collections of medals and memorabilia outside Canberra. It spans from the Boer War to the Iraq/Afghan conflicts and includes fascinating information about the role Fraser Island played in World War II. An array of bikes, buggies and cars form part of the colonial display.
A horse-drawn water tank on display at the Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum
There are a couple of features of Maryborough that don’t seem to fit readily into modern day. Before the town got a clock, a cannon was fired at 1pm so people could set their watches. The original cannon is now in the museum but another is fired off by the city town crier on special occasions.
Maryborough’s town crier is Ken Ashford and he drives a 1953 FX Holden. Despite the heat he’s often found around town in full regalia with a jabot at his neck and tricorn hat so he’s hard to miss. He’s also a walking encyclopaedia on the town and loves the opportunity to share his knowledge.
Maryborough's town crier on the city's painted footpaths
Year round, the place to be on Thursday mornings in Maryborough is the city centre (between Adelaide Street and Ellena Street) which becomes a colourful outdoor heritage bazaar, with over 120 stalls. Along with arts and crafts and farm produce there’s hot food and the time cannon going off at 1pm.
Expect to see historical dress, including the town crier. There’s also great music and entertainment. If you’re travelling with kids keep an eye out for the replica steam engine rides through Queens park.
Why not enjoy a picnic at Maryborough's local park?
For more information about Maryborough visit www.ourfrasercoast.com.au/maryborough
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