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Nestled on a range, just over an hour’s drive from the heart of Brisbane, is the indisputably charming Garden City of Toowoomba. It’s a city I’m familiar with, having lived here for a pleasant 6 years. Toowoomba provides its residents with a myriad of parks, venues & experiences, but at the top of the list, and at the top of my list, is the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers (TCOF).  

Held every year, since 1949, at the beginning of the September/October school holidays, the TCOF brings a recently freezing and hibernating city out from the comfort of their heated corners. It’s like winter never happened as the dozens of beautiful parks and gardens burst into full colour and suddenly we’re a tourist mecca. Visitors from all over the country and the world flock here for the music, the food, the grand parade or just to see the stunning flower display.

Arguably the most popular attraction of the 10-day event is the Ergon Food and Wine Festival. I’ve attended many times before to see the world famous bands Blueju!ce, The Whitlams and Birds of Tokyo. All winter long I look forward to the breaking of the bitter winds that scream through my city and get out with the family to see a parade, have a bit to eat and a drink, and to enjoy some amazing music.

This year I caught up with two participants of the Ergon Food and Wine Festival to get their TCOF story.

Chef Carmel
The lovely Carmel was found in the Kids Cubby section of the Festival where she was hosting an incredibly engaging and fun cooking class for kids. My two daughters spent an hour making the yummiest savoury muffins and homemade butter, with a little gardening in between.

Name: Carmel Carmichael
From: Brisbane, QLD
Years at TCOF: This is my 10th year!
What keeps bringing you back? I run a fresh food promotion business. I want the kids to experience real food. We teach about eating unprocessed food that doesn’t come in a packet. Like today when we made butter from cream. I want to get the kids back into the kitchen. These kids are our future. They’re our future chefs. It’s so important that kids are cooking at home.

SeatonFire Chilli Chocolate

I could barely get a second to talk to Jason, as the steady interest in his delicious chocolates meant he was constantly chatting and serving customers, as well as doing chilli chocolate demonstrations at the festival.

Name: Jason O’Conner
From: Murphy’s Creek (20min down the range from Toowoomba)
Years at TCOF: This is my first year! But it’s our 10-year anniversary.
What brings you to the Festival? Seatonfire are a mother & son team who grow their own chilli’s to produce their own indulgent chocolate products. They have a factory on their property just outside of Toowoomba. It’s their 10th anniversary and this year Seatonfire also sponsored the Murphy’s Creek Chilli Festival on October 15. If you want to sample some of their produce, enjoy some art & music or participate in the Chilli Chocolate Challenge, bring your family along to Jessie Lane at Murphy’s Creek, QLD.

So if you’re up for a Sunday drive or a weekend getaway, the Carnival may be done, but the flowers are still in full bloom! Venture out of the city and visit the “Garden City” without the crowds. Or book the 2018 Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers in your calendar for next year! You won’t be disappointed.