Mardi gras cancelled for this year

Maffra Mardi Gras will not go ahead this year, but organisers say it will be back next year even bigger and better.
Maffra Mardi Gras will not go ahead this year, but organisers say it will be back next year even bigger and better.

MAFFRA'S much-celebrated mardi gras has been cancelled, after the committee decided a festival would be "inappropriate" in the wake of the severe bushfire season.

Maffra Rotary Club president Ted Mitchell said the club was disappointed at the decision to cancel the March 14 event, but plans were already underway for next year's festival to be "even bigger and better".

He said four entrants had already committed to the 2021 festival, while most of the stall holders booked for this year's festival were keen to return and had been "very understanding" about the cancellation.

Mr Mitchell said the committee felt "uncomfortable" about the community focus being on the mardi gras, given the suffering of businesses and residents affected by recent bushfires.

And with a lack of entrants confirmed for the event, the decision was made to put the mardi gras "on hold".

The event's cancellation will leave a gap in the Rotary club's fundraising, however, and Mr Mitchell said the service club would focus on other projects this year.

Maffra Mardi Gras has been running since 1957, raising almost $1 million for community projects in that time.

It was started by local business people raising money for the Maffra and District Hospital, with each entrant raising one penny per vote and the winner receiving a trip interstate, complete with chaperone.

The festival's quirky, old-fashioned carnival format has changed little over the years, and continues to be part of its appeal.

That includes six weeks of fundraising activities where entrants and their committees raise money, with the main drawcard a street party featuring a float procession along the main street.

The event's future was put in doubt 10 years ago, largely because of high insurance costs, but a revamp and takeover by Maffra Rotary Club injected new enthusiasm and community interest in the event.

The club has continued to develop the mardi gras into a family fun day, with face painting, an animal petting nursery, rides, jumping castle, music, street parade, and food, craft and market stalls.

In 2018 it celebrated its diamond jubilee, making the event one of the oldest running community events in Wellington Shire.