The festival was launched in the autumn of 1953 by local Ballarat residents, who were keen to highlight and celebrate the growing post-war prosperity of their town and the local region.
The inaugural Ballarat Begonia Festival was opened by Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies and was an 11-day program of events that included archery demonstrations, square dancing and floral displays. A young Queen Elizabeth attended the festival in 1954 to admire the floral displays, and the Queen Mother visited a few years later.
Over the decades the festival has included just about everything from car rallies, to sheep dog trials and talent quests. In the 1970’s a long distance march was introduced. In 1985 the Festival extended to a whopping 16 days with no less than seven parades including a people’s parade, a children’s procession and a grand parade. The prestigious Begonia Queen competition ran until the 1990’s and was broadcast live on TV!