BENDIGO'S insatiable appetite for Australian rules football was on show at the Queen Elizabeth Oval on Friday. Hundreds of fans and their families ignored the morning and mid-afternoon rain&nbsp;to the first AFL Central Victoria Footy Festival. The event featured a host of fun football and non-football related&nbsp;activities for the whole family, including a kids playground, markets, live entertainment and even a cricket skills session. But the undoubted highlight for the younger generation fans was the appearance of a trio of AFL stars in Hawthorn champion Sam Mitchell, North Melbourne 300-game forward Drew Petrie and recently retired Carlton star Andrew Walker. AFL Central Victoria regional general manager Paul Hamilton said the three could not be more giving of their time. "If you saw the way they interacted&nbsp;with the kids in the Auskick and coached them and then umpired the game, it was terrific," he said. "They had a great time themselves. "Part of what we did when we selected our players was they&nbsp;are all dads. "The festival is about families and what really shone through was them being so interested in these kids." The festival coincided with the AFL grand final eve public holiday, with the annual street parade in Melbourne being streamed live on the scoreboard at the QEO. It was foreign territory at least Mitchell, who has been a major part of the past four grand final eve parades with the Hawks. “As soon as the siren&nbsp;went and we lost against the Bulldogs I thought I am going to have to tell my kids when they wake up (the next day) that they aren’t going to get to do the parade this year and explain why,” he said. “It’s not my favourite moment as a parent. "The Bulldogs were just a little bit too good for us in the end, their&nbsp;ability to use the ball in a really slick manner by hand in particular, we just had no answer for it." Mitchell said he was desperate for the Western Bulldogs to break their 62-year premiership drought, but would not begrudge former teammate Ben McGlynn getting a flag win. Hamilton said it was good seeing regional cities such as Bendigo sharing in the grand final week festivities. Given the large numbers which braved the rain to participate, consideration will&nbsp;be given to making the festival an annual&nbsp;event.