|2014 Event Poster|
Feeling guilt for his death occurring near their town, and not wanting to seem complacent in his death, town mayor Terrigal Skase, in 2007 decided to start a new festival for the town. Not only does the festival celebrate Irwin’s life but it also allows Irwin’s numerous fans to come to Port Douglas and seek vengeance on the very species that killed him, in this rather gruesome event.
“Ay,we kill ‘em good, mate. Every year our fellow Aussies come to our town and we take to the seas. No ray is safe in our sea.” said local fisherman Eran Dougalls.
In commemoration of Irwin’s life and death, Festival goers set sail every year on the second weekend in January, into the Pacific Ocean for a day of hunting Sting Rays. There are contests for the largest fish and most fish caught. This all occurs on Saturday, after a long Friday of drinking and parting, and then there is more drinking and eating of the caught Sting Rays on Sunday. Video from last years event can be viewed here.
It is estimated that the festival brings over 2 Million Australian dollars to the local economy every year. There are other festivals through out the year including, The Port Douglas Carnivale which is held during the end of May, and later in the year they host The Sunset in the Park Music Festival, Porttoberfest North Queensland’s Beer Festival, and the CANEGROWERS Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival.
But the Irwin Stingray Festival is not without it’s detractors. Aussie Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, himself has tried to stop the festival, declaring it “a backward murderous blight upon or national image”. Regional leaders have tried to pass laws to stop the festival, but they have all failed. What is it that keeps locals not only coming back for more every year but so vigorously defending the festival?
“See mate, there’s so much darn rain every January. We love to get out. It is a reason to get out. but even more, it is a reason to celebrate a wonderful man’s life and legacy. Steve was ours. He was our mate. He was our ambassador to the rest of the world, and he was taken from us. We
|America Paul Horners 2013 winning catch.|
It’s not just Australians that come to this small town and pack such local resorts as the posh Sheraton Mirage. It is estimated that over two thousand international tourists attend every year. Most of the international crowd is Asian, but one festival goer from the US is Paul Horner.
Last year Horner managed to catch the largest ray, which gained him fame, fortune, and women.
“I won $2,000 Australian. I don’t know how much that is, like $500 US? Give or take a chicken or pig? I don’t know, but these Aussies went crazy. They loved me, and the women, oh my god the women! I had groupies for the first time in my life! All the money was gone that night, but the ladies were there the next morning!” said Horner.
Only in Australia!