Meet Pat and Ray Ashford, the volunteer managers and founders of the Highfields Pioneer Village
Volunteer managers and founders of Highfields Pioneer Village Ray and Pat Ashford
How long have you been in Highfields for?
We first moved to Highfields in 1974.
What brought you to the Highfields region?
We wanted to start a Heritage park and museum with our family and friends. We [Highfields Pioneer Village] did our first fundraiser for the Highfields State School in 1992 and it was so popular people used to come and visit. In 1993 we opened to the public on a regular basis and haven’t looked back since.
How have you seen the region change since you have been living and working there?
When we first moved to Highfields it was dirt roads, tall timbers, dairy farms, hobby farms and piggeries. People travelled to Toowoomba to do their shopping, the local newsagent was a hive of activity. Then the new shops at Plaza Circle became so convenient, the kids used to ride their bikes there and buy an ice-cream.
What do you love the most about the Highfields region?
The community, the atmosphere, the climate and the convenience.
Where do you like to take friends and family members when they come to the area?
Highfields Pioneer Village of course, then send them to the local cafes, crafts shops, parks and other tourist attractions in the area.
What would you like to see for the Highfields region in the future?
An opportunity shop, housing for the homeless, a community garden and more local visitors to Village.
What is a favourite memory from your time in Highfields?
In the 1970s we bred clydesdales. We would harness up our stallion Jimmy in the cart, put the kids in the back and ‘drive’ them up to the Highfields State School — in those days there were only 90 children enrolled there. On the way home we would visit the newsagent on the highway.
How do you participate in the community?
We work as the volunteer managers of the Highfields Pioneer Village, it is a not-for-profit volunteer-run community organisation attracting over 31,400 visitors to the region each year. There are about 200 volunteers in our association who organise and run the Australia Day celebrations and the Easter Vintage Festival raising over $3000 for the Toowoomba Hospital Children’s Appeal each year.