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There's Something about Mary (Poppins)
There is just something about Mary (Poppins). And for visitors to this year's Mary Poppins Festival in Maryborough (June 29 - July 8), they are in for a treat as the birthplace of the world's most famous nanny's creator, P. L. Travers, will be open to the public for the very first time.
For those not in the know, author Travers was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough on 9 August 1899. Helen's father was the manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank in Maryborough and she was born in a bedroom of the second storey residence of the building.
When thinking of Mary Poppins, most people remember the famous Walt Disney movie starring Julie Andrews and the host of songs that have now become famous such as 'Chim Chim Cher-ee' and 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'.
But before becoming a famous movie, Mary Poppins was the first book in a series of eight about a magical but eminently irreverent nanny written by an Australian P. L Travers.
And it was only after much derision on her part that she sold the movie rights to Walt Disney. In fact, Disney first approached Travers for the movie rights in the late 1940s and she didn't relent and sign a contract until 1961, after an offer that even she finally couldn't refuse.
Travers was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough on 9 August 1899. She left there in 1902, at the age of around two-and-a-half and lived in a range of places that now all claim connections with this famous author such as Brisbane, Ipswich, Allora, Bowral and then Sydney
But remarkably given she was only there at such an early age there are lots of elements of Maryborough that make their way into her books. These are worth looking out for when you make your own trip to this quintessential Queensland town.
Helen's father was the bank manager and in the novels, the father also works in a bank and named what else but 'Mr Banks'. He believes that his family should be run like a bank, making the family efficient, but also making him a distant father until the magical Mary Poppins enters their family and remedies all with more than a spoonful of sugar.
The building where Travers lived is just a short meander from Maryborough's Queens Park where Helen would surely have gone to as a child.
Heritage listed Queens Park is one of Australia's earliest botanic gardens and shares many similarities with the park of the novels near the Banks' home, which Mary Poppins took her charges to.
The Mary Poppins statue is located on the corner of Richmond and Wharf Street in Maryborough's historic Portside precinct.
The first book includes a party at the zoo and Queens Park also once housed a zoo. It was also common for local residents to dress-up and promenade through the park along the riverside.
In the novel, there is Admiral Boom, an ex-naval officer who lives next door to the Banks and fires a canon to mark the time. In Maryborough, a canon was fired at 1 p.m. every day to alert the workers in the cane fields that it was time for lunch. One wonders whether this was something that echoed through her early memories and made its way into her books
The stately bank building that was Traver's first home was purchased by Fraser Coast Regional Council in 2015 and has undergone a $1.5 million refurbishment with grant funds from the Australian Government's Community Development Grants Program, the Queensland Government's Building Our Regions Funding and council.
Its link to the author is already recognised in town by the bronze statue of the world's most famous nanny and metal cut-outs of her iconic carpet bag and brolly where you can pose for fun photos. Even the pedestrian lights show silhouettes of Mary Poppins.
Story Bank will not only be open for this year's festival but there will be a host of storytelling related activities. There will be an ultimate kids' party hosted by comedian and actor Sean Murphy.
As well as this, there will be readings, workshops and book signings by Justin D'Ath, author of the Extreme Adventure series, and an exhibition by Kate Knapp, author of the Ruby Red Shoes children's book series.
Expect to see a chalk artist in Maryborough Parklands but whether these drawing will lift into the air as they did in the famous movie is yet to be seen.
There will also be workshops and activities aplenty. The historic Portside precinct will transform into the scenes of Cherry Tree Lane during the festival's major celebration A Day in the Park on July 7.
Admiral Boom will fire his time canon throughout the day and festival goers can watch or join in the grand parade, and the chimney sweep challenge and nanny race.