Volunteer soldiers on
Alexandra woman Deirdre Jolly could arguably be the most devoted Alexandra Blossom Festival volunteer. Not even heart surgery is stopping the 77-yearold from helping with the 60th anniversary preparations.
Jolly, who has helped behind the scenes with the Alexandra Blossom Festival for about 50 years, came out of hospital after heart surgery about a fortnight ago and has been helping festival organiser Martin McPherson plan activities and entertainment for the dozens of former queens turning up for the festival. One of those queens will be her sister Marie Bingham, of Invercargill, who won the crown in 1975.
‘‘Some of the old hands were called in to help with events, for example bringing princessess in and making sure they were activities for them and there were looked after properly.’’
Jolly, a former senior queen who served on the Alexandra Borough Council for 12 years, and was on the Alexandra Blossom Festival Committee for 12 years, said in past years her house would be filled with boxes and boxes of crepe paper for the thousands of flowers needed for parade floats.
‘‘We made hundreds and hundreds of them. I have five children and I made them work. We had a lot of fun doing it. Sometimes you would make them during a meeting of your group, or sometimes you would just come together for an afternoon to make the flowers. There was great chatter. It’s very social.’’
Flower making was a ‘‘work of art’’, she said.
‘‘They have to be set out properly in rows and all face the same way. If they weren’t correctly made, you can’t stick them on. It is a work of art. I’m not wrong in saying that.
‘‘Then there was sticking them on the floats, spending hours and hours in freezing cold sheds. For those three months leading up to Blossom Festival nearly everyone in town was making floats.’’
There were times shops ran out of crepe paper, forcing float builders to go out of town for the precious supply. Jolly in earlier festival days would walk town streets around Southland and Otago with posters she had made advertising the event. If her children were not helping her, she enlisted the help of friends.
‘‘We would start at one end of Balclutha or Winton and put up posters. That was a great way to spread the word.’’
Former festival committee member and long-time festival volunteer and promoter Deirdre Jolly, of Alexandra.