GourMay sets sights on 2024

Malcolm Oakley. 324544_28

Erle Levey

From opera and fine art, from champagne to first vintage wine … after a fabulous first year GourMay Mary Valley will be back in 2024 to establish itself as a major Queensland agri-tourism event.

Part of the success of the inaugural GourMay Mary Valley Food Festival last year was the variety of events on offer, and organisers are hoping to create a similarly interesting calendar.

It will again host a month-long ‘foodies’ dream from 1 May to 1 June.

In a change from last year, stallholders and food vendors within a 50km radius of the Mary Valley will be able to take part in Festival Day.

“There will be something for everyone,’’ Mary Valley Chamber of Commerce, and festival co-ordinator Malcolm Oakley said.

“And while some of the 2023 events will be repeated, new and exciting events are being planned.’’

GourMay Mary Valley involves a series of events with food as the focus, celebrating the richness of the Mary Valley – from Kenilworth and Obi Obi in the south to Imbil, Kandanga, Dagun and Amamoor in the north.

Much of the success of the inaugural event was the celebration of what is grown and produced within the region.

GourMay 2024 will be officially launched on Wednesday, 1 May, and conclude on Saturday, 1 June, with a gala ‘extravaganza’ dinner.

Walks, talks, music, dancing, wine, dinners, art, film, brunch, morning tea, farm tours, lunch, workshops, photography, tasting day, and festival day completed the feast of events scattered across the Mary Valley during the month of May last year.

Most events sold out and the feedback from patrons was overwhelmingly positive.

“For a small community, it’s just amazing the variety of product we have here in the Mary Valley,’’ Malcolm Oakley said at the conclusion of the 2023 event.

Slow Food Noosa will be part of GourMay this time, as a reflection of the similar philosophies of supporting good, clean and fair food for everyone.

Imbil will once again host Festival Day, this time on Saturday 25 May, and Martin Duncan will be keeping visitors entertained as well as educated as he comperes the event.

Festival Day will have an exciting programme of demonstrations, talks and competitions, Malcolm Oakley said.

“While details for the day are a work in progress – guest chefs and speakers are to be confirmed – the one thing we do know is the GourMay Mary Valley cooking competition is on again. “A mystery box/Ready Steady Cook type challenge, it will pit four local cooks against each other, testing their skill and nerves.

“The rest of May will see a fabulous and diverse range of events.

“Some from last year are returning including Tasting Day at Kenilworth Dairies, Bellbird and Back hosted by Mary Valley Rail Trail, Amamoor Homestead’s launch of their Windrush 2023 vintage, and Kandanga Farm Store will be coming up with something special.’’

New events being planned are a mystery breakfast, Macadamia Day in Amamoor, campfire dinner in Imbil, paint’n’sip at the Kandanga Hotel, and a flower and food workshop at the Woollahra Homestead.

There is to be a film and food night arranged by Slow Food Noosa, and a Kenilworth Family Fun Day featuring the Great Mary Valley Camper Damper competition. 

Other events are being kept under wraps until the New Year with the final calendar being available in early February.

The success of the 2023 event caught the eye of Visit Sunshine Coast that recently launched Queensland’s Sunshine Pantry, to recognise and support the regions growers, producers, and creators.

The initiative was also to provide visitors a means to discover paddock-to-plate dining, fresh local produce and unique farm stays and experiences.

“Not only does Queensland’s Sunshine Pantry provide details of where to eat and where to stay, but also of significant food events across the region,’’ Malcolm Oakley said.

“GourMay Mary Valley Food Festival has been recognised as a signature event alongside Curated Plate on the Sunshine Coast together with Noosa Eat and Drink.

“It is exciting that our event has been recognised in this way and is testament to the wonderful foodie things happening in Mary Valley Country.’’

GourMay Mary Valley is being organised by Mary Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“After the 2023 event we sought feedback from visitors and participants – stallholders and event hosts – to find out what was good and what was not so good,’’ Malcolm Oakley said.

“So in 2024 there will be some minor adjustments to how the festival is managed.’’

One important addition is a stand-alone website to help people find all the information they need about individual events and activities and to provide links to ticketing.

The website will be updated as information changes, and tickets for events will go on sale in early 2024.

Another change gleaned from feedback, was allowing stallholders and food vendors from beyond the Mary Valley to be a part of Festival Day.

“We encourage food trucks and stallholders based within 50km of Imbil, to be a part of this growing event,’’ Mary Valley Chamber president Janelle Parker said.

“We welcome applications from the extensive food community in our region.’’

To find out more about what is planned, or to submit an application, details can be found on the GourMay Mary Valley website, gourmaymaryvalley.com.au or by contacting gourmaymaryvalley@gmail.com

This event is being sponsored by Gympie Regional Council and Queensland Hydro, with support from Slow Food Noosa, Food Agribusiness Network, Visit Gympie Region and Visit Sunshine Coast.