VIDEO: Ballina Prawn Festival and fireworks a giant hit
BALLINA Prawn Festival was a hit for locals and visitors alike, despite the annual one day event having a cover charge for the first time.
Entry was previously a gold coin donation but this year children were $5, adults $10 and families $30.
Early counts indicated the event was its "biggest and best yet" with at least 15,000 converging at Missingham Park on Saturday.
Organiser Nadia Eliott-Burgess said the aim of the festival was to extend to a two or three day event.
"The reality with the Ballina Prawn Festival was that after its third year we had to take a sustainable approach so that we could fulfil the vision of a multi-day, nationally recognised iconic festival for Ballina," Ms Eliott-Burgess said.
The Fair Go skateboarding competition, presented by local stores Nan and Pop and Truckstop, attracted its biggest entry field, with over 150 teens and open masters entrants competing.
Tamara Meade of the Fisherman's Co-op said the prawn shelling competition had all eight heat spots filled by early morning.
John Gardon of Pimlico won the first heat, breaking his 19 day food fast to eat half a kilo of prawns in three minutes and 20 seconds.
"I had to break my food fast because I knew the competition was on and I wanted to win it, I came second last year," Mr Gardon said.
He lost the finals to Russell Coombes who peeled and ate half a kilo of prawns in one minute and 19 seconds.
Vicki Bembridge of East Ballina brought her two young children to the Festival, for the third year.
"It's different this year, I think the field is bigger and there's more going on," she said.