Macleay River Festival. Making Peace with Kempsey.
You’ll rarely hear me call Kempsey home. I wasn’t born there, but I did live there through my teenage years, and I met Matt there (during our highschool years), but for little fault of it’s own, Kempsey has never really felt like a positive place for me.
It was where I got my first job, my first boyfriend and completed highschool, and where I always felt I’d “escaped” from, as soon as highschool was over.
I’ve begrudgingly returned back on many occasions, swearing it was a place I’d never live again, stopping in only to visit family.
You know what’s sad about that?
Kempsey and the Macleay Valley Region is an amazingly beautiful place.
We’ve been back in the region longer than we’d planned, and we’ve been making the most of it. We’ve been heading to Crescent Head regularly and I love that little town; it holds memories of my teens and it’s a stunning place to let the ocean soothe your soul. We’ve been swimming in the river; the same one I spent many summers cooling down, even though the water levels are really low at the moment, the kids had a great time, and we’ve experienced some wonderful community events.
But, while I’ve always felt quite a negative attitude to Kempsey, I’m glad I’ve had the chance to have my mind changed, and I’m happy to eat my words!
The Macleay River Festival.
We’ve taken the time while we’ve been here to get out and about and enjoy some events within the community, and what can I say, but I am so glad to see such positive events taking place in Kempsey. I’ve written before about the joy I feel in learning about Indigenous history in this region and others, and after doing some reading I found this festival was a celebration of the river, of Indigenous peoples appreciation of the river, and also the joy and importance the river has in contemporary society today.
Kempsey was settled on the land of the Dunghutti, “of which there are four tribes Dangaddi, Dainggati, Thungutti and Djunghatti” (Macleay River Festival, 2014)
The river is a central part of Kempsey; it sustains life, it brings devastating flooding, it is mother nature at her most beautiful. It was wonderful to see, that in the spirit of the river, the community of Kempsey connected, together, celebrating, as one peoples.
The festival was inspired as a celebration of the river, the area and the Indigenous peoples that have called Kempsey home for thousands of years. From the festival website:
“festival aims to showcase the spirit and diversity of culture and experiences in the Macleay.”
Well, what can I say, but the festival was an amazing success. With an amazing mix of culture, art, markets, music, comedy, local performers and a relaxed laid back atmosphere that families could enjoy, we all had a wonderful time.
While Kempsey may be an area that has had it’s problems, and suffers many of the same issues that other low socio-economic towns experience, seeing the community togetherness and celebration was heartwarming and a positive sign that the community can strengthen and create a wonderful culture of togetherness and joy in the natural beauty the region offers all people who live here.
Kempsey Twilight Market
We returned back to Riverside park in Kempsey to watch the fireworks that were some of the best we’ve ever seen for the Kempsey Twilight Market. The markets are always a wonderful mix of food, craft, clothing and art as well as nick-nacks and entertainment. I did a little clothes shopping, and even in the rain, crowds gathered to watch entertainment from local school students, and the fireworks seriously went for what seemed like forever and the kids were over the moon.
So I have to admit, I’ve admitted, I’ve been a bit rough on Kempsey all these years…..
When you’ve spent years being stubborn and being negative about a region, sometimes it pays to give it another chance. There is lots about Kempsey that’s great, and I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to see it all with fresh insight.
So, if you’re visiting the Mid North Coast of NSW, then be sure to stop in and visit.