The News 22 March 2021

Perusing a treasure trove of photographs has been a trip down memory lane for an Alexandra woman.

The suitcase full of photos of the Alexandra Blossom Festival were taken by Ernest Fort, of Dunedin.

For 50 years Mr Fort was a butcher at Fort Roche & Co in Dunedin, and in his late 60s he retired to Alexandra, continuing to capture the colour of the festival into the 1990s until he died aged 100 in 2002.

The photos, which span more than 30 years of the festival, were given to the blossom festival committee by his daughter Elaine Wishart, of Dunedin.

The committee was able to look at the photos for the first time at a meeting last week.

While members pored over the photos, committee member Michelle Davies was looking for one particular image from 1986.

That was the year she was picked to be festival princess for the Catholic Women’s League float.

The theme was ‘‘Tea for Two’’ and at 19 years old she was resplendent in a pink dress, pearls and long white gloves and sporting a big smile.

Pretty in pink . . . Michelle Davies (nee Bradley), of Alexandra, gives a regal wave to the crowd on the Catholic Women’s League ‘‘Tea for Two’’ float in 1986. PHOTO: ERNEST FORT

‘‘It was amazing — it was the most amazing weekend of my life,’’ she said.

Not only did Mrs Davies get to enjoy being a festival princess, she was also crowned festival queen.

‘‘I was really lucky because the year that I won I actually got a trip to Australia.’’

Her family had a strong connection to the festival.

Her grandmother Gert Breen was involved in the festival for many years making floats and later was a senior blossom queen.

Her mother Rosalie Alexander (nee Breen) was also a festival queen in 1962 on the Alexandra Winter Sports Club float, with the theme of skating on the Manorburn dam.

‘‘So one of my dreams when I was at school was one day I would be a festival queen like my mum.’’

Festival event manager Martin McPherson said he and festival chairwoman Sharleen Stirling-Lindsay were discussing with the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery the possibility of using the photos for an exhibition or display.

One idea was to invite people to come and see if they could identify themselves, and add a note next to their photos.

Another idea was to display the photographs before this year’s festival to provide inspiration for anyone planning to decorate shopping trolleys known as ‘‘florreys’’ that feature in the parade.

This year’s festival is the 65th and will take place from September 24 to 26.