NATURE'S DANCE: The whales apparently love to hear the drums which are part of the Whale Dreamer Festival, often choosing those moments to breach.
NATURE'S DANCE: The whales apparently love to hear the drums which are part of the Whale Dreamer Festival, often choosing those moments to breach. RAY ALLEY

Whales steal the spotlight at Dreamer Festival

SOME ideas have so much heart that they take on a life of their own.

The Whale Dreamer Festival, entering its 12th year on Sunday, July 2, is an example.

Starting with a gathering of 150 like-minded people passionate about saving whales, the festival over recent years has attracted over 10,000.

And this year, there's a little extra help for anyone finding it hard to make it up the hill to the Norah Head Lighthouse venue, with buses shuttling up and down the hill and picking up at the shops.

Half the road will also be closed so people can walk more easily.

Event organiser Colette Baron said despite the large numbers, the festival never felt overcrowded because there was plenty for people to do, including free whale talks, live music including Dr Good Vibe and Peter Healey and Phil King, dancers, drummers, guest speakers and marine conservation displays, including Sea Shepherd, as well as for the first time, a children's dress-up parade.

The lighthouse is open for tours at a small cost and you can enjoy a fundraising sausage sizzle or food stalls and refreshments.

And, of course, the whales put on their own show every year.

"You can't fail to smile when you see the whales and, because of the location, the whales come in quite close so there are plenty of sightings all day," Colette said.

"And they love the drumming - they often start breaching when the drums are playing."

The Whale Dreamer Festival began as a reaction to laws being considered that would have allowed Japanese whalers to take more humpbacks, despite numbers being down to 5000.

"We started asking the question, what can we do?" Colette said.

Within six weeks, and with no money behind them, she and three friends had organised the first festival at Terrigal to share their passion for whales and the marine environment, to raise funds, awareness and active participation in conservation and research projects about whales.

"We never knew it would grow into what it did," Colette said.

"It was just a reaction to something that was happening which we weren't happy about."

She said those four initial friends, herself, Nikki Freeburn, Jeannie Lawson and Roberta Dixon-Vaulk had become even closer over the years, and remained as passionate as ever about the marine environment.

"I think people really connect with whales, and this festival will always be about whales, but the ethos goes far deeper to the marine and wider environment," Colette said.

She said the fact that there was "hardly a skerrick" of rubbish to pick up at the end of events was evidence that those who attended shared their thinking.

"We have arts and crafts free for kids but not general market stalls because we don't want to diversify away from marine life and the environment, and sharing information. That's our focus and we wanted to keep that integrity," Colette said.

The festival runs from 10am-2pm. To find out more, call Nikki 0424233124 or Colette 0428897974.


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