Fitting finale to festival
After a short, fierce battle, it was all done at $4000, and Hayley McCulloch was thrilled to be taking the vibrant work back to the Hotel Brunswick, where it had been hanging on display, and where it will now hang for a very long time for all to see and enjoy.
“It was worth it,” said Hayley, though joking that it will be “bread and butter for me next week.”
Reg is donating all the money from the auction to the Woodchop Committee, though his act of generosity is by no means a one off.
“I’m probably infamous for my tent paintings,” he explained, “when I used to erect a tent and paint 70 paintings around it in a week, all over Australia.
“In 1977 I was asked to paint something as a fundraiser for the Police Citizens Youth Club in Lismore – it was meant to be a one-off, but it just mushroomed.
“I had my first tent here 31 years ago, and since then I’ve painted five or six for the woodchop.”
His painting forms part of a series celebrating country festivals, and viewers are invited in to the story of each by following the camera of the newspaper photographer that appears in each one.
“Wherever the lens is pointing, that’s where the story starts,” he said.
And the story of the history of the Woodchop Carnival was very much on everyone’s mind at the celebration dinner held the week before at the Ex-Servicemen’s Club in Mullumbimby, where guests of honour were three of the original committee members, still going strong after 50 years: Reg Byrnes, Jon Gray and Noel McGregor.
Reg, the Woodchop’s official historian, with an update of his book ‘Fish n Chips n Trivia in the Brunswick Valley’ currently being reprinted, told the story of the origins of the festival, one wet Saturday night back in 1962 when an invitation to a drink to himself and other surf club members led to offers of help on the newly formed woodchop committee.
The crowds flocked to watch the axemen and women do their thing over the four days of the woodchop itself, just as they have over all the years.
“Some people have been coming every year for all of those 50 years,” said committee president Rosslyn Hogan.
“We’d like to say a big thank you to them, for without them we wouldn’t have kept going for 50 years – and we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in making it such a great success.”
But while the Woodchop Carnival has been going 50 years, it became the Festival of the Fish and Chips only in 1974, and the 50th celebrations successfully revived many of the festival’s popular events from years gone by.
The Progress Association organised the sand modelling competition that was enjoyed by kids of all ages as well as adults; Jim Stammers ran an athletics carnival at the sports fields that is likely to become an annual event; the surf club had its masters carnival; and the Scouts had their fish and chips race down the river.
“It was all good,” said Rosslyn, the president since 2005.