Last Saturday night, the local Aussie community came together at Union Ale Brewing Co. Event Center to celebrate Australia Day, which can be described as the Land from Down Under’s 4th of July. The event went from 4 p.m. until late into the evening, featuring imported Australian beer and wine, Aussie Gourmet hor d’oeuvres, live musical performers and broadcasting of Australian sporting events. The event was put on by a group of local Aussies including Shannon Leggett and Martin Brown, general manager of Kalyra Winery. Leggett said that while local Aussies have been celebrating their nation’s holiday for years in Santa Barbara, this is the first year that they have moved it out of a private home and into a public venue. Coopers Brewery — an Australian made and owned family brewery — co-sponsored the event.
Initially, the event was $44 for Wine Club members, $50 for General Admission and $66 for VIP. Event organizer Shannon Leggett decided to change it to free admission after only 50 people paid. He told The Independent that they wanted the best turnout possible for the event, so they just charged for beer, wine and hor d’oueuvres. Before 7 p.m., the venue was only partially full with local Aussies and supporters casually drinking and enjoying gourmet Aussie favorites such as meat pies, sausage rolls, vegemite bites, shrimp from the barbie, and kangaroo and lamb skewers. After 7 p.m. however, the venue filled up fast, and Martin Brown, GM of Kalyra Winery, exclaimed that, “The whole Santa Barbara Aussie community is here!”
Around 9 p.m., the live musical performances began. Dave Winstone, Aussie folk singer, covered the Aussie classic rock hits and singer Katie Cole played a live acoustic set on stage. Cole was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and recently moved to L.A. to pursue her songwriting career. Her Sheryl Crowesque style gave a relaxed and authentic vibe to the event and when asked why she decided to perform at the gala she replied that she wanted to support her country and her culture and couldn’t ask for a better opportunity than at the Australia Day Festival.
Australia Day is the celebration of the first fleet of British settlers to Port Jackson in 1788. Their celebrations and traditions are similar to those of 4th of July in America and include picnics and barbecues, parades, citizenship ceremonies, and a voted Australian of the Year. For some Australians, the day is controversial because British colonialism destroyed many indigenous cultures. The Aborigine community sometimes refers to the holiday as Invasion Day, and a Santa Barbara local who just moved back from Australia indicated that they were hesitant about attending the event at Union Ale because of the adverse effects that British settlement has had on Australia’s indigenous population throughout history.
Overall, Union Ale was packed with laughter, conversation, and a mix of Aussies, Santa Barbara locals, and tourists who stumbled upon the event. “Oy!” could be heard until late into the night by jersey-sporting Aussies who were drinking and celebrating their national holiday alongside the local community of Santa Barbara.