Shepparton’s Albanian community is gearing up for its long-running harvest festival.
What started as a way for local Albanian community members to gather to celebrate culture and connect with each other has grown and thrived during the past 15 years.
One of the things that shines through most vividly during the festival is the pride the local Albanian community has for its heritage and culture, and this is indicative in community leaders’ calls for one and all to come along to the festival and help celebrate.
This year’s festival was to have an even stronger emphasis on the culture specific to the southern Korce region of Albania, organisers said.
‘‘It (the festival) really highlights where our ancestors and parents are from,’’ community leader Enver Sabri said.
The local Albanian community is a significant part of Shepparton’s cultural fabric, but there is some concern among its leaders that local ties to the culture might slowly be disappearing across the generations.
Mr Sabri hopes the customs and cultures from the homeland can be passed down and maintained locally for as long as possible.
With this in mind, events such as the Shepparton Albanian Harvest Festival create opportunities to enjoy the food, dance and music the culture has to offer, hopefully ensuring younger members of Shepparton’s Albanian community continue to celebrate this rich heritage.
The decision to open the festival gates progressively to wider cross-sections of the community appears to have paid dividends for organisers, as interest grows.
An attendance of between 3000 and 4000 — the estimated turnout last year — is significant, with some travelling from outside the region to attend.
The festival also serves as a reminder of the diverse cultural offerings sitting right on our doorstep; they are an important part of the region’s history and have contributed greatly to the place Shepparton and its surrounds are today.