Celebration of produce, heritage

KEN UTTINGCountryman

Harvey's Harvest Festival now attracts more than 14,000 people to the town on the third Sunday of March each year.

The event reflects the essence of the relatively small rural community with its rich heritage and has gained international recognition for some of its iconic Harvey Beef and Harvey Fresh products.

In its early days Harvey was noted for its timber and its orange orchards, and later for its potatoes from the Benger Swamp.

Prior to all this Governor Stirling built a hunting lodge on the Harvey River, a replica of which is now a tourist attraction at the entrance to town.

Famous illustrator and children's book writer May Gibbs spent some of her childhood days at the old lodge and the gum trees there were the inspiration for her Snugglepot and Cuddlepie book characters.

But it was the Italian influence that had a significant impact on the economic and social wellbeing of the town during the mid-1900s.

The first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in the 1930s, many of them initially leaving their families behind to come out and make a new life.

They were a hardworking and industrious group who were able to take advantage of the rich soils of the Harvey River flood plains.

After World War II another wave of Italian immigrants arrived in the 1950s. By the 1980s half the town's population was of Italian descent.

It is their legacy that has seen the third and fourth generations now running many of the big businesses in the area, including one of the town's supermarkets, restaurants and cafes, fashion and flower shops, engineering works, market gardens, dairy and beef farms, vineyards and, of course, Harvey Fresh.

The Harvest Festival celebrates Harvey's Italian heritage and its clean, fresh produce.

It features food and entertainment with this cultural flavour.

Set in the shady and idyllic Snell's Park at the centre of town, the festival has two stage areas that provide six hours of entertainment, plus street performers and more than 100 hand-picked stalls and displays.

A feature of the festival is the WA Grape Stomp Championship that has attracted overseas competitors and wide interest.

While the senior competition brings up some old rivalries, most of the competition is a light-hearted and hilarious, fun-filled activity that also involves the children.

In recent years patrons have been enthralled by the quality of the entertainment.

The organisers spare no expense to seek out some of WA and the South West's best-known groups featuring both Italian and mainstream music.

Last year's festival received an extremely high rating for its entertainment and client satisfaction in an independent survey.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails