Katoomba's Easter Carnival, 1932

Carnivals and processions were popular in early 20th century Katoomba. In Easter 1932, Katoomba Municipal Council sponsored a carnival fortnight. It was the depression and life was tough.

Peter Dawson, manager of the Empire Theatre, responded to the council's plea for businesses to participate by holding a ball advertising his latest movie attraction, Greta Garbo's film, Mata Hari, at the Katoomba Town Hall on March 22

Ball-goers were encouraged to dress up as famous movie stars. Five young ladies obliged, to the delight of the 300 other attendees. A visiting film director, Harry Southwell, was one of the three judges.

Saturday evening's festival procession gathered in Waratah Street. At 8.30 pm it proceeded up Katoomba Street to the railway station and over to Russell Hawke Park, led by the newly formed Katoomba Band.

Individuals, guest houses and other businesses took part. There were decorated cars, trucks and billycarts, bicycles and prams. People dressed as fairies, monsters, waterfalls and sausages. One group of visitors masqueraded as the Three Sisters. Crowds watched the procession, following it to the carnival.

The Mayor, Alderman Packer, opened festivities. A merry-go-round, a razzle-dazzle, a coconut shy, hoopla, housie-housie and a chocolate wheel, whose prize was a pound of local chocolates for a threepenny ticket, all entertained the crowds. 

Sport was important too. The local golf course's competition was sponsored by the Empire Picture Theatre. Bowls and hiking were both popular festival activities.

Businesses in Katoomba were totally involved. The window display competition attracted so many contestants that a professional window-dresser from a large Sydney store adjudicated.

Participants in the popular scooter race on wore placards on their backs, advertising the Empire's next film, Ronald Colman's The Unholy Garden. They scooted under the huge Mata Hari sign strung across Katoomba Street, via Waratah, Lurline and Gang Gang streets and back down Katoomba Street to the Empire. Prizes were one pound, 10/-and 5/-.

Heavy rain on Saturday afternoon, April 2, washed out the tennis, but an exhibition was held on Sunday at the tennis courts. Sixteen-year-old Vivian McGrath, the "boy wonder of tennis", and Australian international, James Willard, played against two local players. Everybody agreed that the locals did not disgrace themselves.

The marathon, on April 6, began at the Empire Theatre, headed down Katoomba and Merriwa streets, past the Baths, up Leura Mall and back along Bathurst road to the showground. Two guineas, one pound and 10/6 were the prizes for the first three placegetters, a goodly sum in 1932 when the minimum wage was three guineas a week. Katoomba's Easter carnival was a resounding success.