THUNDER BAY – It might be 16 hours behind and halfway around the world, but that didn’t stop hundreds of Thunder Bay residents from celebrating Australia Day Sunday. The expression of Aussie pride, hosted at the Sleeping Giant Brewery, was inspired by the country’s recent bushfire crisis as a way to raise money for relief efforts.
Kate Strange is a brewery employee and owner of Waxxed candle co. who hails from Australia. She says the owners of local Ungalli Clothing Co., which sells her candles, reached out to pitch the idea about two weeks ago. It’s been a whirlwind of organizing since then, with at least a dozen other businesses joining in to make the event a reality.
“We just posted a picture being like, hey we’re going to have a fundraiser,” said Hailey Hollinsworth, an Ungalli co-owner. “Within 20 minutes, we had so many local businesses asking how they could help.”
Ungalli printed TBAY LOVES AUS t-shirts to help raise funds, while Strange created two limited-edition candles that reminded her of home: eucalyptus and lamington, a popular Australian cake. Sleeping Giant Brewery got in on the efforts with a specially brewed beer, while a number of other artisans and food vendors joined in.
Bree Hollinsworth, the other half of the Ungalli team, says there were many chipping in from behind the scenes as well, like some of their suppliers who provided free or discounted screen-printing and stickers.
The three women set a rough fundraising goal of $10,000 for the event. Just over halfway through, they were already close to that target, with shirts and candles nearly sold out. The proceeds will be split between the Australian Red Cross and WIRES, a wildlife rescue organization.
Strange says it’s been hard watching the disaster unfold from the other side of the world, but the event buoyed her spirits.
“What’s cool is, I thought I was the only Aussie in this town, but I’ve met six today,” she says. “I closed my eyes for a second, and I was like, holy goodness gracious, I’m back at home.”