Festival of Light Queen shares streetlight significance to Tamworth's history

ONE of the city’s first Festival of Light Queens has shared her experience on the event that put Tamworth on the map.

Just days after the city celebrated 129 years since it became the first city in the southern hemisphere to light its streets using electricity, Lorraine Woodley (nee Vine) recalls being crowned the Festival of Light Queen as a 19-year-old in 1960.

The annual festival, which celebrated Tamworth’s role as a national pioneer of electricity, was a staple on the regional calendar and regularly made front-page headlines.

“Tamworth’s third annual Festival of Light came to a colourful climax on Saturday night when a crowd estimated at about 8000 people watched the Mayor (Ald. S. J. Cole) crown the Festival Queen (Miss Lorraine Vine) on No. 1 Oval,” the front page of The Northern Daily Leader read on October 24, 1960.

“There was a roar from the crowd – which had thronged to the oval following a highly entertaining street procession – when Ald. Cole announced the successful queen candidate.”

Last Thursday, a visual spectacular of art projections lit up Tamworth Powerstation Museum to mark the 129th anniversary, on the back of a series of artworks boasting a City of Light theme being rolled out across the city.

Last Thursday's Light the Night celebration. Photo: Peter Hardin

Last Thursday's Light the Night celebration. Photo: Peter Hardin

Mrs Woodley said on Tuesday she hoped the city continued to celebrate its historical milestone.

“I think (the festival) was the first attempt at saying we’ve got to bring tourism to Tamworth,” Mrs Woodley said.

“It really is an amazing piece of history that happened right here in what was still a borough at the time.

“It’d be a good idea to keep going.

“It’s something for the community, so something like that is always worthwhile.”

The Festival of Light Queen was as much a fundraising quest for local charities as it was about celebrating the city’s electricital significance.

“You could choose a charity to put the proceeds towards,” Mrs Woodley said of the quest.

“I chose housing for the aged because there was nothing here in 1960.

“Out of the proceeds I managed to raise, we built single-storey flats.”

Mrs Woodley raised the money through everything from chook raffles to home-made goods, but it was a donated Shetland pony – “that went for more than what it was worth” – that helped her top the fundraising competition and take out the title.

“I was a little bit stunned when I was crowned,” Mrs Woodley said.

“It was a bit of a surprise.”

Mrs Woodley won a trip to Noumea, which she took as a honeymoon the following year.


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