A Tribute In Bronze – Essex Tait

1 September 2022

‘Father’ of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers immortalised in Carnival Lane

I had the privilege of knowing my grandfather quite well.  Or so I thought. It was not until later in my life that I came to appreciate what an outstanding Australian he was and what an extraordinary life he lived. Archie Tait

As Australia welcomes Spring, and the nation’s most beautiful event in the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers (TCOF) begins its 30-day program, the founder of this iconic celebration Essex McEwen Tait has been immortalised with a stunning bronze bust in the city’s Carnival Lane, sculpted by Queensland artist Mela Cooke.

The bronze bust of Essex Tait, the Toowoomba business owner and WWII navigator and pilot who suggested the event as a way of increasing economic activity following the hardships of the war, was unveiled by Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio, Environment and Community Committee Chair Cr James O’Shea and the grandson of Essex, Archie Tait.

Since its inception in 1949, TCOF has flourished and is now an iconic Queensland event.

It all began with Essex Tait’s passion for the city, and veterans. He owned a hardware store and because of his wartime experiences, he wanted to bring a sense of recovery – both financial and social – to the Region. So, he suggested to the Chamber of Commerce they celebrate the ‘Garden City’ with a Spring festival.

On 21 October 1950 TCOF started with a street procession that stretched almost five kilometres in length. Led by a bullock team and watched by a crowd estimated to be 50,000 strong, it was a resounding success, and has continued to bloom every year.

Now famous around the country, TCOF brings tens of thousands of visitors to Queensland’s Garden City. Last year, the extended Carnival format delivered more than $22 million to Toowoomba’s visitor economy, up by 123 per cent on 2020, with attendance over 284,000.  The event has received the Gold Award for Major Festivals and Events at both the Queensland Tourism Awards (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and Australian Tourism Awards (2016, 2017, 2018) and sits proudly in the Australian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame.

Archie Tait said his grandfather would have been both delighted and proud, and slightly embarrassed, about the generosity of the unveiling and the bust.

“I had the privilege of knowing my grandfather quite well. Or so I thought. It was not until later in my life that I came to appreciate what an outstanding Australian he was and what an extraordinary life he lived,” Archie said.

“Essex was known as being a genuine good bloke. He was amicable, would start a chat with anyone and would spend hours down at his local RSL. It was only later in Essex’s life did I discover the horrors of what he endured during WWII; as a navigator and pilot he did tours over Nazi-occupied Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean.”

“Some of his last flights were to evacuate Diggers from notorious prison of war camps back to Australia, and some of these evacuees died in his arms. Despite these harrowing wartime experiences, my grandfather remained a gentleman and a gentle man.”

Archie spoke of how his grandfather dedicated a large part of his life to the RSL and Legacy, with the bronze bust featuring Essex wearing a tie scattered with Legacy logos.

“After the war, he came home, to Toowoomba and started a beautiful event, in a beautiful country. On behalf of the Tait family, I thank the people of Toowoomba for all their support and enthusiasm for the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers over so many years.”

Essex Tait passed away on 14 October 2008. His children and grandchildren all share a love of flowers and gardening.

Artist Mela Cooke’s bronze sculptures are in private collections throughout Australia, France, USA, Spain and Germany, with over 24 public works across Australia.

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers will once again extend over all 30 days of September as a joyous program of petals, flavours, sounds and sights, headlined by over 190,000 blooms – the full program can be seen here.

 Chair of the Toowoomba Regional Council Environment and Community Services Committee Cr James O’Shea said the continued expansion of the 73 year-old event proved to have extraordinary financial and social benefits for the community. “Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is a significant economic performer for the Region,” Cr O’Shea said.

“Once again, our incredible event will take place over 30 petal-filled days, to allow for greater visitation, business connections and community engagement. Taking centre stage, as they should, will be flowers and local flavours, as the event continues to bloom into a truly Region-wide experience for both locals and visitors. We look forward to welcoming visitors from all over Australia!”

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers 2022

1 – 30 September 2022

For more information contact Kath Rose & Associates on 0416 291 493 or kath@kathrose.com