You can tell when spring has sprung in Perth: the outdoor cafes start to buzz, the beaches begin to fill up, and, of course, the wildflowers at Kings Park begin to bloom.
The annual Kings Park Festival, now in its 50th year, quite literally celebrates the rite of spring, kicking off on September 1 with a host of family-friendly events and a program that caters to art and music lovers as well as wildflower trainspotters.
"We've got a bit of a fresh take this year - it's a great opportunity to do something a little different and look at the event with new eyes," festival director Rebecca Maddern says of the 50th anniversary activities, which will take in the history of the park, recognise Noongar culture, celebrate native flora and offer plenty to interest a broad demographic.
Each week in September has been assigned its own "theme", including Rare and Endangered, Bushland, Children's Week and Grow Me At Home, with events and workshops set up to encourage green thumbs to plant native wildflowers in their gardens.
"The main message we want to get across, as always, is the importance of retaining our biodiversity and drawing attention to the uniqueness of our native flora," Ms Maddern says.
"We've always attracted visitors who are specifically interested in wildflowers and native plants but we now want to reach lots of different people in lots of different ways. Being creative and having really great artworks on display is one way of doing that."
To that end, the Kings Park Festival will have two artists in residence at Aspects of Kings Park (Albany-based hand-cut paper artist Sue Codee and York-based silverware artist John Harris), plus a strong focus on celebrating Noongar culture, an exhibition of 50 years of festival poster art, and some lighthearted fun in the form of "yarn bombing", where various sites around the park will be covered in colourful knitted squares.
In addition, the Santos Live Sunday concerts will bring the likes of Australian jazz legend James Morrison to the party.
Morrison and the Motown Experience will officially launch the live concert series with a 60s soul night in the Botanic Garden, while a host of indigenous musicians will entertain the crowds on Boodja Gnarning Family Fun Day on September 15.
"Recognising Noongar culture is an important part of everything we do these days," Ms Maddern explains.
"We have some really great relationships with the local Noongar community, the traditional custodians of the land. There are many wonderful stories about how this land has been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years, well before European settlement, and we really value those stories and try to tell them wherever we can. We want to bring that to the forefront of people's awareness when they visit Kings Park and make it a core part of what it means to be West Australian. From a tourism point of view, we find visitors from other countries are really interested in learning about the indigenous experience of this place."
The Kings Park Festival began, rather modestly, as a two-day event in 1963, before branching out into a five-day festival. Six years ago, it expanded into its month-long format and has gone from success to success, with approximately 620,000 people making their way through last year.
"In the early days, it was pretty much a case of cutting a few flowers and putting them in jam jars," Ms Maddern laughs.
"But it's just grown and grown. Kings Park has such a special place in the hearts of most West Australians; it's rare to have such a large green space in the middle of a city and that's why so many people bring tourists and family here before they see any other part of the city."
Some new initiatives this year include Turf Tattoo, a stretch of painted garden bed that Ms Maddern describes as "a native flower design but with a 60s flower- power feel". It took some convincing of the park's "turf team" to modify their beloved greenery.
"It was a bit of a sales pitch," she chuckles. "You can imagine how greatly loved the lawns are here and normally nobody is allowed to touch them. The guys had to be reassured that the paint would have no lasting effect. But, look, when it comes to festival time, it's all hands on deck, whether you work on the events side of things or whether you're out on the ground fixing the sprinklers. Everyone pitches in, so the turf guys are surprisingly receptive to ideas as long as we're not causing them any major headaches."
While kids will be catered for throughout the month with face-painting, roaming Adorable Florables and a nature-play park, adults will be lured in by the Rio Tinto Naturescape Kid Free Zone, where they can rediscover their inner child by building a cubby or going on a scavenger hunt.
And in a piece of synchronicity, a vintage-car display will commemorate another important 50th birthday: that of the EH Holden.
"We got in touch with the EH Holden Car Club and it put us on to a couple of guys in Merredin and Kellerberrin who donated two old car shells that will be forklifted into the gardens outside Fraser's Restaurant, right in the flower beds," Ms Maddern explains.
"Then, at the end of the festival, we'll have a display of 20 or so vintage Holdens. It's something for the dads and the revheads, I guess."
The Kings Park Festival runs from September 1-30.
For the full program, go to kingsparkfestival.com.au