LAKE BOLAC - Visitors in their hundreds flocked to Lake Bolac to celebrate the 10th annual Lake Bolac Eel Festival in March.
This year's theme of 'Return to Country' was embraced across all areas of entertainment including acoustic music, an art exhibition, environmental forum, children's activities, craft and produce market, buskers stage, indigenous culture and dancing.
Of particular interest to followers of the festival was the opening of the art exhibition by Patricia Park - the original designer of the poster for the first festival held in 2005 and someone who has supported and been an integral part of the festival throughout its existence.
The not-for-profit community music and art festival has been held each autumn on the foreshore of Lake Bolac for the last decade.
It is inspired by the fact that Lake Bolac was a traditional gathering place for indigenous people before white settlement.
Performers this year included Neil Murray with Sammy Butcher (Warumpi Band), Shane Howard (Goanna), Carus Thompson, Leah Flanagan, Tom Richardson, Miles 2 Go Trio, the MikMaks and Brett Clarke.
The Recycled Sculpture Competition offered entrants a $200 prize for a sculpture made from recycled and scrap materials.
The opening of the Art Exhibition on Friday evening was followed by a buffet meal and live music in the Lake Bolac Hotel with Leah Flanagan treating people to some wonderful music.
The exhibition was open all weekend and this year, featured the work of internationally recognised Mortlake artist Richard Weatherly.
Keynote speakers at the forum the following morning were Hamilton historian Peter Bakker who has a wealth of knowledge relating to Indigenous servicemen from South Western Victoria and Rob Youl, who is well known in Landcare circles.
Mr Youl looked at the history of soldier settlement with regard to land management as the weekend long event played host to several international visitors.
Representing Deputy Premier Peter Ryan at the Festival Art Exhibition, Nationals Member for Western Victoria David O'Brien said the Victorian Coalition Government was a proud supporter of the Lake Bolac Eel Festival.
"The Lake Bolac Eel Festival is a unique art and music event," Mr O'Brien said.
"It revives the traditional autumn gathering of indigenous people on the banks of Lake Bolac to trade, share food and enjoy cultural activities.
"The festival attracts around 1000 attendees and provides a major boost to the local economy.
"The event also promotes Lake Bolac as a tourist destination and contributes to the understanding and promotion of art, music and indigenous culture in the area."
Mr O'Brien, also a musician with a strong passion for live performance, said he was proud the Nationals, as part of a Coalition Government, had supported the event with $5,500 from the Regional Growth Fund.
"The $5,500 Regional Growth Fund investment assisted with the hiring of equipment, and supported local and metropolitan radio advertising along with the production of promotional and marketing material," he said.
"In the Ararat Shire, the Regional Growth Fund has provided almost $2.8 million to 21 projects, leveraging almost $6.3 million in total investment.
"These locally-developed projects are delivering infrastructure and services that contribute to a better quality of life for communities across Western Victoria."
More pictures - See page 14