The beaches of the Gold Coast have been a venue for public entertainment for many years.
Among the first modern entertainments held on the beach were demonstrations of lifesaving techniques which started in the 1910s. These developed into competitions between surf lifesaving clubs which were among the first associations to petition local shire councils to use the beach as a dance and entertainment venue.
The surf competitions and carnivals became very popular after the Second World War and in 1947 Queensland hosted the Australian Championships at Main Beach, Southport. This was the first time the championships had been held outside of Sydney and huge crowds attended.
Another early, and quieter, form of entertainment was sand competitions. Participants, usually young children, would create their own garden using seashells and vegetation in an allocated space of approximately one metre square. A long line of these small gardens would spread across the sand for visitors and judges to admire. The sand garden competitions were particularly popular in the 1920s and continued well into the 1930s.
Aircraft on the beaches were not an uncommon sight in the early years of the twentieth century. Before Bilinga Aerodrome was established, bi-planes would land and take off from the wide beaches. Crowds would gather to admire the aircraft, have their photos taken and pay for joy rides. On occasion, early racing cars would arrive on the beach to race across the hard packed sand.
Riding around the beaches wasn’t limited to aircraft and racing cars. Animal rides on camels, horses, ponies and elephants were available for many years. Pony rides continued on Greenmount Beach until the 1960s and, in the early twenty first century, camels returned to the southern beaches.
Other forms of entertainment included beauty contests that started in the 1930s and continued until the 1970s. The beauty contests were not universally popular. In 1936, Archbishop Duhig wrote a letter in the Courier Mail condemning them and, in 1937, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union wrote a letter to Council in protest.
Hypnotists, like Ron Ricco during the 1960s, and public broadcasts of radio programmes were also featured events on the beaches. The radio broadcasts centred on the popular beaches at Burleigh Heads, Main Beach and Coolangatta and, despite some complaints about the noise, drew huge crowds, especially during the 1950s.
The southern beaches hosted hokey pokey dances, cheer leading, war cries and marches between rival guesthouse teams. These were a great attraction for holidaymakers where people not only participated but also gathered to watch the competing guesthouse residents.
Music bands were particularly popular in Coolangatta where musicians would play from the veranda of Carnell’s Kiosk on Greenmount Beach. Crowds would listen to the bands and dance on the beach to the sounds of live music. The Carnell family would go on to create other venues for entertainment such as Currumbin Hotel and the Playroom.
In the 1960s it was quite usual to find professional photographers roaming the beaches ready to take a snap shot of visitors enjoying their holiday in the sun. While postcards and souvenirs were a great way to remember a trip to the Gold Coast, a photo of family and friends among the beach towels and umbrellas was more personal. In later years, the professional photographers gave way to amateur photographers who had easy access to cameras to take their own snapshots. People can be seen taking photos along the beaches and at the regular series of festivals along the coastline.
The Swell Sculpture Festival held in September each year along Currumbin Beach and the Kite Festival which started on Kirra beach in 2009 are events where visitors and residents will go to enjoy the spectacle and take countless photos to share.
Entertainment is not limited to the foreshore with the parks adjacent to all beaches favoured as locations for fireworks, movie shows, dancing and fire-twirling, pet walking, fitness, weddings and a range of special events and celebrations.
Sources of information and further reading
- City of Gold Coast Local Studies Library photographic collection.
- Gold Coast Bulletin, 25 Sep 2015 http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/news/gold-coast/coast-flying-high-as-the-kite-festival-takes-off-this-weekend/story-fnj94idh-1227543329919 Accessed 07/12/2015.
- SOUTHPORT (1937, November 11). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37902628
- BEACH BEAUTY CONTESTS (1936, October 12). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 15. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37029840
- ESSENTIALS TO CULTURE (1937, January 6). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 10 (CITY FINAL LAST MINUTE NEWS). Retrieved January 25, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article183394134