Annual Keast Park Picnic
A History of Our Annual Picnic
1929 – Today
Since its beginning, our community gathers on the first Sunday of February for the annual Società Isole Eolie Family Picnic. A celebration of our cultural heritage, the picnic brings the Aeolian people together and signals the start of a new year of club activities.
The first official event was held in 1929 at Aspendale Racecourse and later moved to Seaford; eventually returning to Aspendale where it remained until the outbreak of World War II.
After the close of the war, the SMSIE officially reconvened in 1948. Meetings were held at the Cavour Club in Cecil Street, South Melbourne. The Tradition of the annual family picnic was restored at Keast Park in Seaford.
At the beginning of the 1950s, the annual family picnic was restored to its pre-war levels of vigour and enthusiasm. Aeolian families once again swarmed to the annual picnic to enjoy a day filled with wholesome fun by sharing homemade Aeolian Foods and participating in the many games and events, such as running races, egg and spoon race, a watermelon-eating competition, a tug-of-war, three-legged race (called Siamese race at one time), jumping sack race, a spaghetti-eating contest and even a little bit of old-fashioned boxing.
Although Keast Park has undergone many face-lifts since the 1950’s the picnic contests continue to be a focus for each new generation. While most of the traditional events continue to feature each year, the tug-of-war, boxing and the spaghetti-eating contests were abandoned at some point. For instance, the tug-of-war was discontinued after a feud developed disputing its winner.
To celebrate the Anniversary of the 70th picnic held at Keast Park in 2019, the tug-of-war and the spaghetti-eating contests were reinstated for the first time in decades.
During the 60s, the popularity of the SMSIE family picnic continued to grow. A whopping 1500 people were recorded to have attended the annual picnic at Keast Park on Sunday, February 9 in 1962.
During a meeting held at the Cavour Club in 1967, the SMSIE committee agrees to the introduction of a Miss Isole Eolie guest to the annual picnic’s proceedings.
The first Miss Isole Eolie was elected in the summer of 1968, but unfortunately, as with many of the following years’ winners, the actual name of ‘La Bella Signorina’, as noted in the committee minutes, was never recorded.
See a full list of Miss and Mr Isole Eolie winners since 1968 HERE
The first recorded winner, Lisa Caponio was elected in 1970 on Sunday the 22nd of February at Keast Park.
In 1971, the quest finished controversially when a non-Italian was declared the winner. The results fuelled a heated discussion at the following general election.
The title of Miss Isole Eolie became a highly-regarded position. The 1976 winner, Rosina Fonti, instigated the visiting of patients at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the 1980 winner Teresa Luca went on to win the Italian Community Miss Charity Princess of that same year.
Unfortunately, in some years bad weather prevented the quest from taking place and a winner was never elected.
The Mr Isole Eolie Contest was introduced in 1996.
In 2011, the construction of the community pavilion at Keast Park required the annual picnic to be transferred to an alternative venue, Elwood Beach. Consequently, a Miss and Mr Isole Eolie were not elected.
Again, in 2016, Keast Park underwent further redevelopment which included improvements to the playground and general park facilities. Though the annual picnic is able to continue, the diminished availability of clear space now provides challenges to the staging of some of the picnic traditional events.