Cairns Festival was founded by the Cairns Regional Council on 26 May, 1961 with the highlight event being the grand opening of a new jetty on Green Island.  This was the same time that the first annual Cairns Tourist Festival was established.

Regional Queensland's most significant and fastest growing community event, Cairns Festival has come a long way since then.

Fun in the Sun

In 1963 the festival was named 'Fun in the Sun'. The Fun in the Sun name and branding remained in place until the early nineties when it was re-launched as 'Reef Festival' to celebrate the city's gateway access to the Great Barrier Reef and diving industry.

Girls were pulled from the crowd during the inaugural event with historical records showing Marlene Murray crowned the first 'Miss Cairns'.

The following year saw the festival take on a more formal air and the hand crafting of a special 'crown' was commissioned using local silver and agate.

The first Miss Cairns to wear the special crown (currently on display at the Cairns Historical Society Museum) was Kay Hilder (nee McMahon).

Festival Cairns

In 2002 Cairns Festival underwent another dynamic incarnation as Festival Cairns in an effort to bring all of the city's key events together under one big, colourful umbrella.  In effect, the impact would cause people to stop and celebrate the spirit and lifestyle of the tropical north while focusing a spotlight on the region as a must-see, destination for domestic and international visitors.

Following extensive community consultation, Festival Cairns 2009 was reinvigorated to draw on the city's unique culture and environment to create an event that would stand out from all others in Australia today.

Cairns Festival

A new chapter began in 2010 when the management and direction of the festival returned in-house to its founding organisation, the Cairns Regional Council. It was at this time the festival was re-branded once more and given it's current title – Cairns Festival. In the years since, Cairns Festival has grown under Council's direction, through Council's Cultural Services branch.

The overriding vision has been to deliver a bright, bold and challenging program spanning visual and performing arts, culture and entertainment while showcasing the city's key cultural precincts, nurturing local talent and driving tourism.