After four years of drought, times are tough in the southern New South Wales town of Harden, but the town has used the simple idea of a kite festival to raise spirits and attract visitors.

Story By Jo Hegerty

As sunset colours the airstrip – open again now for traffic – members of the Harden Kite Festival committee take some time to relax and reflect on the day that’s been. There’s no doubt it was a huge success – more than $1000 raised, 2200 people through the gates and perfect winds. Volunteers have been out here all day under the hot sun and they’re tired and footsore, but that doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the idea someone tosses into the circle: “I reckon next year we should make it two days.” The Harden Kite Festival has been running for just three years. As with any new venture, it’s been an uphill battle to bring it to fruition, but the event – created by the community for the community – attracts people from far and wide, and means a great deal to twin towns Harden-Murrumburrah, 30 kilometres south of Young, NSW. The festival is the brainchild of Faye Valerius, who was inspired by a trip to China in 2005 where she saw adults and children flying kites and having a great time doing it. Back home, the Harden Shire was weathering its fourth year of drought and morale was low. To make matters worse, the abattoir closed, putting 130 people out of a job, depleting the area’s schools, hospitals and ultimately population, which stands at about 3500.

This story excerpt is from Issue #63

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009