Queensland Events

Thrill ride: Solarcoaster

WHEN sisters Mary and Toni Eggleston get together in one of their ‘idea moments’, it’s sort of like watching the creation of a new, delicious dessert. A little bit of sweet, a little bit of spice, plenty of fruity bits and an end result which is hard to resist.

As to who is the sweet and who is spicy, well I wouldn’t like to say, but I can talk about the end result of one of their more recent ‘idea moments’ – the irresistible ‘Solarcoaster’ kids arts festival.

Just like a favorite dessert, kids just love it. And parents aren’t far behind. You see, there has been a distinct absence of any major Sunshine Coast events created just for kids aged three to twelve years.

Toni and Mary got talking about a possible solution after experiencing first-hand the lack of creative activities designed specifically for this age group.

“It was just like a rollercoaster – once we got started the momentum kept gathering, the ideas, potential and inspiration came pouring in and we just had to make ‘Solarcoaster’ happen,” says Toni, who publishes the magazine Kids on the Coast. (Mary is an arts worker and children’s performer – together they are the driving force behind this exciting new children’s festival.)

And so the ‘recipe’ was born – but there were still plenty of ingredients before this ‘rollercoaster’ of an idea reached its destination.

First, Egg Festivals Inc, a locally managed not-for-profit group, became involved. The association is made up of arts workers, educators and childcare specialists and is now the organising body of Solarcoaster.

Another important ingredient was the involvement of Najidah Association Inc, an inspirational Sunshine Coast charity which runs programs assisting women and families escaping domestic violence, youth bereaved by the suicide of a friend or family member, school children experiencing difficulties in social and physical aspects of their lives and general community well-being.

“Najidah has been closely associated with Egg Festivals for some time now, and we have worked collaboratively on a number of projects which have been aimed at general community benefit, particularly those with a youth focus,” Mary says.

The charity is the major beneficiary of the Solarcoaster event and Najidah director Matthew Bienstock says many of the charity’s volunteers are again committing time and energy to the 2009 Solarcoaster.

When Toni and Mary were initially ‘cooking’ up the festival, Najidah’s executive team offered time and expertise to assist with the business planning side, and the charity’s many volunteers provided invaluable hands-on help at the inaugural event in 2008.

“Providing wholesome, mainly free, fun activities for children is one of many ways to combat the growing number of young people experiencing serious difficulties in life,” Matthew says.

Najidah’s ground-breaking Supporting Children in Primary School (SCIPS) program has just completed its initial two-year trial, where liaison officers worked in Sunshine Coast primary schools providing a link between families of young people in primary school and support services in the community. The goal was to identify home-based issues which were creating barriers to the development of young people in the school environment, then act as a conduit for the entire family to be referred to the appropriate community support services.

“If a young person is dealing with issues such as parental drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, gambling or other addictions at home, there is only so much the school can do to help,” Matthew says.

“SCIP had an 80% take-up rate among the families of young people, where they took up the referrals to community support services – and of course the difference in how the young person behaves and performs back at school is evident.”

Najidah is confident the SCIP program can be formally inducted into all local schools – with a bit of help from their friends at Solarcoaster, of course.

“With young people facing serious problems at increasingly younger ages, a bit of fun is high on the agenda,” Mary says.

“We believe Solarcoaster is on its way to becoming the ‘must-do’ annual event for kids in the region, and we are proud that our success will help Najidah to continue its amazing work.”

Solarcoaster rolls into Nambour from May 20-23, 2009.

For three days prior to the main event, workshops with highly popular children’s performers Linsey Pollak and Kym Lardner will be open to all local primary schools and child care centres. The Saturday event also held at the Nambour Showgrounds will feature children’s band from Melbourne, The Mighty Buzzniks and stacks of free activities, rides, workshops and plenty of good fun for kids. Yum.

Check out the Solarcoaster website for further information and booking forms.

Solarcoaster

When: May 27-30, 2009
Where: Nambour Showgrounds, Nambour
Web: www.solarcoaster.com.au

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