Young and old were delighted by the sweet smell of sugar from cane to crop as part of this year’s Childers Festival Isis Central Sugar Mill and Cane Fire Tour.
The annual entertaining and informative Cane Fire Tours take place as part of the Childers Festival and are always a popular family affair for people to take in the spectacular sights of not only modern harvesting at a cane farm but also a chance to see locomotives hauling the cane bins to the mill, up close and personal.
Chief field officer at Isis Mill Paul Nicol said Cane Fire Tour participants got to see firsthand how cane was cut before the time of machinery as they travelled around various parts of Childers.
The days before machines
Paul said the tour gave people the chance to see cane hand cut by third-generation sugar mill director Col Taylor, who retired in 2014 and had sugar cane in his blood from a young age.
“So we saw some cane being harvested by our million dollar piece of equipment, we saw Col Taylor cut some cane by hand to demonstrate how it was done in the old days,” Paul said.
“Col in his heyday could cut about 25 tonnes of cane per day and our machine out there tonight cut 700 tonnes of cane today.”
The taste of sugar before processing
Paul said the taste of sugar cane wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea as participants eagerly tested their sweet tooth on freshly cut cane billets.
“So obviously they’re able to get some billets there and have a chew on a bit of billets,” Paul said.
“Some people thought it tasted just like tree bark, other people could actually taste a bit of sugar in it.”
Paul said after the samples it was back to school for a chemistry lesson.
“Later in the evening when we did our chemistry lesson, we were able to actually taste some of the components and obviously people really enjoyed the syrup and the molasses and even the crystal sugar,” he said.
Paul said sugarcane may not be a taste for everyone and it was an acquired taste.
“Not everybody enjoyed it; some people said yuck but a few were quite impressed with it,” he said.
During the cane fire tour participants were also shown the different stages of the sugar.
“I noticed the younger people among us tonight, the kids were straight into the crystal sugar, but the older guys tried a bit of everything. I didn’t see anybody actually try the mill mud though!”
Paul said the tour would show how important the sugar industry was for Childers.
“The sugar industry is a big employer in Childers,” he said.
“Tonight we heard firsthand about 1000 people involved around the district, growing sugar cane, harvesting sugar cane, hauling sugar cane or processing it like we do.
“Our little local community here we have people hanging off that everywhere, school teachers, policemen, shops so the sugar industry is very important to the district.”
From the flames to the smell
Cane Fire Tour participant Mark Herron said he enjoyed the evening and he was amazed to see the cane being cut with the big mechanical harvesters and said the amount of cane cut by each harvester was unbelievable.
“Of course the highlight of the night is the cane burn of two blocks, which is every pyromaniacs dream and certainly very impressive watching the cane being burnt and feeling the heat coming off it and the light radiating from it!” Mark said.
“Just the way the thing goes up in a very short period of time, very intense burn it’s just fun to see it and it’s something you don’t see in everyday life. I mean you don’t see the inside of a sugar mill everyday either. Certainly being able to watch the cane burn is a lot of fun.”
Mark said it was his second time he had been on the tour and would recommend it to anyone.
“Top day out, absolutely wonderful, couldn’t get better value for money and it’s a great thing to see Bundy Council, the sugar mill and the service groups all work together and provide such a good service for tourists and locals alike,” he said.
“I would certainly recommend it, great evening out, well organised, works like a charm, interesting and lets us see inside of a vital local industry.”
Paul said he was glad to hear people were amazed by the Cane Fire Tour that allowed them to get up close to a cane fire.
“Obviously we do a lot of planning around the safety of the cane fire as they are able to get up close, they’re able to hear the crackling, they’re able to see the flames, experience the smoke I’m sure most of them will have that in their clothes for a few days but obviously around the whole tour it was about getting up close and personal to all the action,” Paul said.
“We want people that don’t necessarily live in rural communities to understand what living in a rural community is and to see that equipment being utilised.
“We’re really happy to be associated with the Bundaberg Regional Council on this event.”
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