The Brighter Days Festival of 2020 seems so long ago now – particularly for Parade’s boys of 1980, whose much-anticipated 40-year reunion was regrettably postponed due to the pandemic.

Back then, all roads led to the festival in Bright – the northeastern town at the foothills of the Victorian Alps – where the lads gathered for a truly noble cause.

Pictured here are old schoolmates (clockwise from left to right) left to right: Greg Busch (1980), College Captain Gary Dundon (1980), John Coen (1980), Matthew Powell (1980), Stephen Zito (1980), Gary’s younger brother Stephen Dundon (1981) and Kevin Wilson (1980).

The Festival, a fixture in Bright since 2013, has generated more than $1.65million in funding to two charities aligned with the Brighter Days Foundation – the DEBRA Foundation (Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association) and SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) – in the eight years since Matthew Powell and Steve Dundon drew on their wide circle of friends for support.

Matthew, thesedays the Foundation’s Treasurer, reminded how organizations such as Brighter Days often evolve organically from a small idea.

“This is certainly the case with the BDF and the Brighter Days Festival. My recollection of walking into a friends backyard to play a gig and then to be introduced to Eliza and Tilly (both young girls suffering from EB) is still very strong in my mind,” Matthew is quoted saying on the festival website.

“It was that day that motivated a number of us to organise a fund raiser for this rare generic disease. At the same we teamed up with friends involved with SUDC and have now grown our foundation and Festival into what it is today - a group of friends helping out others in the community.

Stephen Zito, who like Gary Dundon relocated to Western Australia, married and raised a family, contributed the following article of his experiences at Brighter Days.

I first heard about the Brighter Days Festival from Gary Dundon when the event commenced in 2013. Gary’s brother Steve was involved with the festival’s formation and Gary suggested that he and I needed to get over to Bright one day to check it out.

I managed to make it to Bright for the first time this year. Gary and I were lucky enough to journey from Whittlesea to Bright on a couple of ‘borrowed’ Harley Davidsons, taking in some spectacular roads and vistas through the Victorian Alps.

We arrived at the grounds where the festival was to be held and were immediately allocated volunteer status with access to all areas. No mucking around, we were given jobs to do before we’d even had a chance to register with the site office.

The two-and-a-half-day festival was a real eye opener, what with 270 volunteers happy to be part of the weekend and around 5000 people filing through the gates on the last day to enjoy motorbikes, cars and music.

The fact that all profits from the event were to go to a variety of charities was never lost on anyone attending, and everyone supported the major fundraising raffle and random auctions held on stage between the various music acts. An aside to the regular auction items was the carton of 48 toilet rolls which sold for over $500 (remembering that the festival took place over the Labour Day long weekend, just prior to the lockdown).

Between music acts we were introduced to representatives of the various charities which stood to benefit from Brighter Days proceeds. These were very special moments indeed and crowd members stood and listened to tales of hardship, success and the ongoing benefit of donations received. A touching video was at one point screened to the audience . . . and I’ve never seen so many grown men cry.

Brighter Days 2020 proved to be the biggest yet in terms of event attendance, and it’s worth noting here that three Old Paradians were members of the Brighter Days committee, the entire Dundon family was involved in some capacity, and half a dozen other Old Paradians were there in attendance.

This year, four different charities will each be receiving $150,000 due to the hard work and generosity of the Brighter Days Foundation. Its people - the volunteers, the people of Bright and those who travelled to the festival over the long weekend - should all be proud of their achievements. This was a truly fantastic outcome on the back of a fantastic weekend.

For me, the line from the great Australian movie ‘The Castle’ says it all. “It’s just the vibe of the thing. It’s the vibe of it. It’s just the vibe of it….”