Toowoomba honours founder of its Carnival of Flowers

Richard Dinnen - Queensland Editor |

Archie Tait with the statue of his grandfather in Toowoomba
Archie Tait with the statue of his grandfather in Toowoomba

The winters are cold on the Darling Downs, so any sign of spring is keenly anticipated. Since 1949, the annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers has been a sure sign of warmer days ahead.

This year’s Carnival began with the unveiling of a statue of the event’s founder, who saw it as a way to create financial and social recovery after World War Two.

Hardware store owner, Essex Tait, suggested to the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce that they celebrate the ‘Garden City’ with a spring festival.

The event caught on, and is now famous around the country, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to Toowoomba each year.

Last year, it brought 284,000 people to the city, adding $22 million to the local economy. It’s won many tourism awards and proudly sits in the Australian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame.

Today, Essex Tait’s grandson, Archie, unveiled a statue of the Carnival founder, sculpted by Queensland artist, Mela Cooke.

Archie Tait said his grandfather would have been delighted, proud, and slightly embarrassed.

“I had the privilege of knowing my grandfather quite well. Or so I thought.

“It was not until later in my life that I came to appreciate what an outstanding Australian he was and what an extraordinary life he lived.

“It was only later in Essex’s life did I discover the horrors of what he endured during WW2. As a navigator and pilot, he did tours over Nazi-occupied Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.

“Some of his last flights were to evacuate Diggers from notorious prison of war camps back to Australia, and some of these evacuees died in his arms.

“Despite these harrowing wartime experiences, my grandfather remained a gentleman and a gentle man.

“After the war, he came home to Toowoomba and started a beautiful event, in a beautiful country.

“On behalf of the Tait family, I thank the people of Toowoomba for all their support and enthusiasm for the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers over so many years.” 

The Carnival of Flowers will continue through September with a program of events and more than 190,000 blooms.

In 2021, the Carnival brought $22 million into the local economy

Toowoomba Regional Council’s James O’Shea said the 73-year-old event brings extraordinary financial and social benefits to the community.

“Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is a significant economic performer for the region.

“Once again, our incredible event will take place over 30 petal-filled days, to allow for greater visitation, business connections and community engagement.

“Taking centre stage, as they should, will be flowers and local flavours, as the event continues to bloom into a truly region-wide experience for locals and visitors.” 

Essex Tait died in 2008. His children and grandchildren all share a love of flowers and gardening.