Vol­un­teer sol­diers on

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

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.

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