Spring has become a traditional festival period throughout Australia with floral festivals in every State and Territory.
The Hills is no different in that for 49 years there has been a “Orange Blossom Festival” in the district. I had the honour of being on the Orange Blossom Festival Committee in 1996 o under the then Chairperson, Cllr Sonya Phillips, Mayor of the, then, Baulkham Hills Shire Council.
I recall that we would discuss the various fairs and street parades that were run under the umbrella of the Festival Committee. Fairs were held at Crestwood, Kenthurst, North Rocks, Wisemans Ferry and Castlewood and elsewhere throughout the Shire as well as, naturally, at the Castle Hill Showground which was the main event.
Discussions were held about what events were to be held at the fairs, the stalls, traffic management including rerouting of buses and bus stops during parades, entertainment and a whole range of necessary security and safety issues. Notwithstanding the seriousness of these arrangements, I found that working with the various committee members and council officers to be a rewarding experience and we all got on well as a team.
One interesting, and what I considered humourous, experience I had during the Castle Hill Street Parade was a photograph taken of two young fellows who I would estimate to have been possibly in their early twenties dressed in clown outfits. This photo was published in the “Hills News” a newspaper with which I had a working relationship some time previously. The caption under this front page article read that they were “Ivor Jones’ son and a friend”. This was news to me as I never had a son. Daughters, yes but never a son. Nonetheless the photograph helped provide front page coverage of the Festival. At the same festival a journalist remarked to me that he estimated a certain number, somewhere in the thousands in attendance along the footpath on Old Northern Rd at Castle Hill. I said that it would be hard to estimate as there was no way of accurately counting the number of people but still it does make for interesting copy for an article.
The Festival has evolved over time, some events and fairs have gone by the wayside whilst others have come to take their place and boundary changes have seen areas such as North Rocks and Northmead is no longer within the Shire. Increased population and traffic has affected such events as street parades. A State MP, who was well respected and popular, Wayne Merton also staged a vintage car show at the “Bull and Bush Hotel” car park that is no longer a feature. There is also no longer a “Miss Orange Blossom” event or an “Orange Blossom Ball”.
However, all in all, it is good to see that despite no longer being one of the main citrus growing areas in the State, the Hills has continued to feature a “Orange Blossom Festival” with the support of the local council.