March-April, Easter weekend
The South Australian town of Coober Pedy is known for its opal mines, producing about 70 percent of the world’s opals. In the early 20th century, newcomers to the area—explorers, miners, construction workers, soldiers returning from World War I—built underground dugouts in which to live because of the harsh environment of the outback, with its excessive heat and minimal water supply. Thus, the town came to be called “kupa piti” or “white man in a hole” by the aboriginal people.
Celebrated over Easter weekend, Coober Pedy’s annual Opal Festival includes such competitive events as the mine rescue demonstration, stein holding competition, beer belly contest, tug-of-war, tossing the sausage, triathlons for men and women, games and races for children, football, and the multicultural dance and singing competition. While the fun begins on Thursday night with the festival cabaret, Saturday is the main day, kicking off with a morning street parade featuring a marching band, mining equipment, and floats and culminating in a fireworks display and a dance at night. Throughout the festival, the opal walk leads festivalgoers from shop to shop to view rare and beautiful specimens, and dugout tours are available. There are also displays of local handicrafts, along with food and drink tents, stage acts, aboriginal dancing, and music.
Coober Pedy Opal Festival
P.O. Box 425
Coober Pedy, SA 5723 Australia
61-8-8672-5298; fax: 61-8-8672-5699
WildPlanet-1995, p. 420