Ararat ready for a rockin' good time

ARARAT - Movers and groovers are gearing up to rock around the clock this weekend as anticipation ahead of the 20th annual Ararat Jailhouse Rock Festival reaches fever pitch.

It is 'back to basics' for the event that in a milestone year will pay homage to its humble beginnings with entertainment and activities that are a true celebration of rock 'n' roll era music from the 1950s and 1960s.

Festival convener Ian Wilson said this year's focus is on a return to what festival goers have come to know and love about the event over the past two decades.

"We've gone back to the traditional program which is a true celebration of rock 'n' roll 50s and 60s' era music," he said.

"People who attend the event are committed to that theme, and this year we are sticking to what we know works."

Visitors are encouraged to slick back their hair, dust off their leather jackets and put on their blue suede shoes for a weekend packed full of entertainment to mark an event rich in history and vibrant colour.

Celebrations begin tonight with a meet and greet for visitors and enthusiasts at the town hall and a dinner dance at the RSL.

Participants will then be invited to take a cruise of Barkly Street between 8pm and 9pm, and display their pride and joy whether it be a hot rod, classic car or motorbike.

Tomorrow's Giant Highway 8 festival event in Barkly Street is completely free, but only a warm up for what is to come when festivities step up a level and return to Alexandra Oval the following day.

Barkly Street will be closed to traffic from 7am tomorrow morning as volunteers set up stages and marquees with real fun set to begin from 9am and roll on until 4pm.

"Everything is completely free Saturday, the street is closed, we'll have a large number of rock and roll merchants, motorcycle displays, bands and a DJ (disk jockey) playing," Mr Wilson said.

"They'll also be a fashion parade and special performance by students from Ararat 800 and Ararat West primary schools who have excelled at their rehearsals over the last couple of months.

"The children have put a lot of work in and this will be a good chance for them to showcase their dance and vocal abilities."

For those of you with a flare for dance they'll be rock n' roll lessons and if you consider yourself a quick learner or well experienced you'll be able to put those newly acquired skills to the test in a variety of competitions.

Saturday night will see the weekend's feature event the Moovin and Groovin Ball at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre. Although the showcase event is expected to be sold out, those still looking for a fun night can head to the Wheels ball at Alexandra Hall with tickets available for purchase at the door.

Sunday's extravaganza at Alexandra Oval will boast an extensive music program with plenty of room for dancing under a specially erected marquee, fashion parade and merchants promoting their memorabilia.

Shannon's Ararat Jailhouse Rock Festival Show and Shine, with entries of hot rods, classic cars and motor bikes will be well sought after with a ripping trophy up for grabs.

Of particular interest to young car enthusiasts on Sunday will be the static car display.

Police members will have a drag monaro, ute and marked police car (chrysler) on show as part of an education campaign that seeks to improve relations with youth in the community and promote responsible driving.

"We are encouraging people to come out and sample the display Saturday, but then also turn up on Sunday to support the festival now in its 20th year," Mr Wilson said.

The storage shed where Jailhouse Rock Festival decorations and memorabilia were stored was completely destroyed last October when a freak weather event described as a 'mini tornado' swept through the Kokoda Park area.

"We lost a fair bit of decorations and memorabilia, but our volunteers have worked hard to recreate some of it, they have been busily putting decorations together," Mr Wilson said.

"The volunteer input has been really good this year, especially from people not formally on the committee but who have stepped up to assist.

"We can always do with more and if people want to become involved they can contact myself (0427 388 758), and we'll find them a job."

With the response from regional event organisers overwhelming and around 5,000 flyers distributed to promote this year's festival, Mr Wilson said event organisers were planning for a record crowd.

"I urge all the locals to get on board, show their support and make our visitors welcome," he said.

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