Festa parade cancelled

Scenes from last year's Pako Festa street parade, which has been cancelled this year.

For the first time in 38 years organisers have cancelled Geelong’s Pako Festa street parade, which has previously drawn crowds of more than 100,000 people.

Multicultural organisation Diversitat last Friday announced the cancellation of the colourful parade to protect public health and safety amid COVID-19.

Instead this year’s Pako Festa will take place at 13 sites across Geelong featuring cuisine from 19 ethnic communities, event director Luisa La Fornara announced.

“Each site will showcase a particular community group and their signature dishes,” she said.

“Dine-in and takeaway food offerings and a program of entertainment will be available at each site.”

Numbers are limited for the February 27 event and all guests must pre-book, with bookings opening in early February at pakofesta.com.au.

Nightly projections at Geelong West Town Hall will also replace the iconic parade for two weeks beginning on February 27.

The projections feature local artist Matt Bonner transforming 30 community portraits by photographer Chrissie Francis.

Pako Festa will also showcase the work of local schools and professional and emerging artists in shop windows along Pakington Street in its Elements of Culture Arts Trail.

Diversitat acting chief executive officer Brian McMahon said the new format “struck the right balance” between the “favourite aspects” of Pako Festa and COVID-19 restrictions.

“The health and safety of Pako Festa event-goers is our highest priority,” he said.

“We think that the message of Pako Festa is more important now than ever before, which is why we were determined to build an event format that would work in the current environment.”