THE festival celebrating the wildest night in Beechworth’s history has become the town’s most joyous day.
More than 20,000 people lined the streets, stood on balconies, perched on window sills or hung from poles to watch Saturday’s Golden Horseshoes Festival grand parade.
The procession recreates an event from 1855 when an aspiring politician rode into town on a horse with golden horseshoes on the eve of the first election in the area. It worked — he was elected the next day.
This year Chinese dancers shimmied and twirled down Ford Street, followed by stilt walkers, giant bees, vintage cars, school-aged pirates, Country Women’s Association fairies and the Easter bunny.
Owner of the George Walk bed and breakfast, Jill Jarvis-Wills, who watched from a balcony, said people booked year on year for the festival.
“Last year was good but they’ve surpassed that,” she said.
“It creates a real togetherness in town.
“The visitors feel it and that’s important.”
The highlight for Ms Jarvis-Wills was the re-enactment of the horse of that early politician, Daniel Cameron, being shod with golden shoes.
Indigo Shire education officer Keith Warren, dressed appropriately, told the crowd the shoes all those years ago were valued at $1.4 million in today’s money.
“It was the wildest 24 hours in Beechworth’s history,” he said.
“It was an ostentatious show of wealth.”
Mr Warren said 10,000 drunken miners had taken over the town, drinking free beer until dawn.
His suggestion to improve next year’s festival was to reintroduce the free grog.
“Let’s really get into the spirit of it,” he said.
Organiser and Beechworth Honey owner Jodie Goldsworthy said the crowd was bigger and feedback positive.
“Everyone has come and really enjoyed themselves,” she said.
Mrs Goldsworthy, who is opening a second Ford Street store — Beechworth Honey Discovery — in spring, said her highlight had been the new market on Saturday night.
“There was fabulous food and great music,” she said. “It was a really nice to sit and unwind.”
The festival began on Good Friday and continues today with a Wooragee Easter market from 10am to 2pm.