Town expects thousands to be poppin’ in
MARYBOROUGH residents will be needing their flying umbrellas, as tourism operators prepare for a deluge of interest in the town's most famous export.
The historic Queensland city was the birthplace of P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, and Disney's sequel to the original 1964 film is released in the UK today and Australia on New Year's Day.
The local tourism industry is leaping at the chance, hoping that renewed attention on the iconic nanny will bring more than a spoonful of tourism dollars to the Fraser Coast during next year's Mary Poppins Festival, which has been running since 2007.
The event has become one of the more prominent events on Maryborough's calendar, attracting almost 10,000 people over two weeks earlier this year, but organisers are already making preparations for a bigger festival in 2019.
Fraser Coast Tourism events manager Robyn Peach said the feature film would hopefully breathe new life into the wondrous world of Mary Poppins.
"There's been a couple of generations flow through since (the last film), so the Mary Poppins brand, while still strong, hasn't been top of mind for some people," Ms Peach said.
"So we see this movie as a way to refresh the Mary Poppins brand. That can only benefit us, as we have the Mary Poppins Festival."
"There's not many places which are just a small town which can say they're the birthplace of one of the world's most loved authors."
Fraser Coast Tourism estimated 9500 attended the Mary Poppins Festival last year, including 1600 out-of-towners.
The organisation was hoping that the feature film would attract another 5000 people to the event in 2019, each injecting an estimated $300 a day directly into the region's tourism industry.
There was a similar bump in tourism numbers after the release of Saving Mr Banks in 2013, a movie that chronicled Disney's acquisition of Mary Poppins' film rights from Travers. That in turn led to the 1964 box-office hit starring Julie Andrews.
Ms Peach said next year's festival was going to act as a springboard for tourists to become immersed in other attractions around the Fraser Coast.
She said Fraser Coast Tourism had been working to highlight the significance the town had on being a gateway for new arrivals into the state, back when it was a colony under the British crown.
"Mary Poppins fits in with a whole lot of other aspects of Maryborough," Ms Peach said
"It was where the immigrants used to come to Queensland, up the Mary River."
Fraser Coast tourism operators were hoping the extra interest would tempt residents to try other attractions in nearby Hervey Bay and Fraser Island such as whale watching.
Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said the feature film presented a great chance to link the magic of Mary Poppins with the magic of the Fraser Coast.
"Mary Poppins is a great introduction," Cr Seymour said.
"There's so much happening on the Fraser Coast, and Mary Poppins is just one component of that."
He said the town has been embracing the iconic nanny for many decades, erecting a statue of her and putting her umbrella-wielding silhouette on traffic lights around town.
For Maryborough girl and Mary Poppins fan Taylor Dunn, 23, the books and movie have been a source of inspiration and pride for her hometown.
"I saw the original film as a child, so that was a part of my childhood growing up," Ms Dunn said.
"It's amazing, I think it's a real test that it doesn't matter where you grow up you can go on to do amazing and wonderful things.
"It's amazing that someone from Maryborough - a sleepy little town - has gone on to do such brilliant things and which are still loved today."
Ms Dunn said she felt a sense of anticipation for the new feature film and how it could reinvigorate the local tourism industry.
"I think Maryborough is very proud to be the birthplace of Mary Poppins."
Travers grew up at Allora near Warwick and was educated in Sydney before moving to England at the age of 25. She died in London in 1996, aged 96.
Making of a masterpiece
August 9, 1899: P.L. Travers born in Maryborough.
1907: Goes to boarding school in Sydney. Writes poetry in The Bulletin magazine and tours Australia and NZ in a Shakespeare company.
1924: Moves to England.
1933: Begins to write Mary Poppins.
1934: Mary Poppins is published, becoming a literary success.
1964: Mary Poppins theatrical film, starring Julie Andrews, released in cinemas by Disney.
1977: Appointed Officer of Order of the British Empire.
1988: The eighth and final instalment of Mary Poppins is released.
April 23, 1996: Dies in London, aged 96.
1999: The Proud Marys, a group of women wanting to raise the profile of Maryborough, is founded in the small town.
2005: The Mary Poppins statue is erected in Richmond St, Maryborough.
2007: Mary Poppins Festival founded.
2013: Saving Mr Banks, a theatrical film about Disney acquiring the rights to Mary Poppins, is released in cinemas.
2018: Mary Poppins Returns opens in cinemas.
Something about more than Mary
NEXT year's Mary Poppins Festival will be leveraged to highlight the Fraser Coast's other historical figures and stories, providing a new insight into the importance of the region on the nation's history.
A feature of the festival will be the opening of the Story Bank, a museum which, in addition to exhibitions of Mary Poppins paraphernalia, will showcase and tell the diverse stories of other important figures in the Fraser Coast region.
Among those from Maryborough who have made history is Duncan Chapman, the first Australian man to set foot on the deadly beaches of Gallipoli.
Proud Marys president Joy Newman said the site selected for the new museum was historically significant.
"The Story Bank is where P.L. Travers grew up and is being redeveloped into a museum," Ms Newman said.
Travers' father operated a bank out of the building where the Story Bank will soon sit.
The Mary Poppins Festival, to be held from June 28 to July 6, is preparing several other attractions for 2019.
It will include the annual Mary Poppins in the Park, the Mary Morning Tea and previous favourites, including umbrella-making, bagpipes and a youth choir, market stalls and the Nanny Race.
The festival has been held since 2007.
It was founded by Mary Poppins enthusiast group the Proud Marys, which was formed in 1999 to celebrate Travers' 100th birthday.
The group was the driving force behind the commissioning of a Mary Poppins statue in Maryborough in 2005.