GOLDEN MEMORIES: Fay Clayden (nee Ryan) believes that while she may not have won big prizes materially, she gained a lot of pride, confidence and wonderful memories from being crowned the first Carnival of Flowers queen in 1950.
GOLDEN MEMORIES: Fay Clayden (nee Ryan) believes that while she may not have won big prizes materially, she gained a lot of pride, confidence and wonderful memories from being crowned the first Carnival of Flowers queen in 1950. Glenn Hunt

First Queen of the festival

MEMORIES of the first Carnival of Flowers and being crowned its queen have lasted a lifetime for Fay Clayden (nee Ryan).

The mother of five, grandmother of 16 and great-grandmother of six now lives in the Brisbane suburb of Bellbowrie with a beautiful garden inspired by her time in Toowoomba.

She returns for the Carnival of Flowers every decade to celebrate with the city.

"When I think about the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, I am flooded with happiness, a sense of achievement and feelings of pride and privilege," she said.

"I was very honoured and still am to have received the title of Carnival Queen at the inaugural Carnival of 1950."

However, she also still remembers her horror when her parents, who managed The Canberra Hotel in Russell St, told her she was to be sponsored by the Licensed Victuallers (now The Hoteliers Association) as an entrant in the proposed Carnival Queen competition.

At 19, and working as a ticket seller at the local Princess Picture Theatre, she was relieved it was not a beauty pageant.

But she remained unconvinced she would be able to raise more funds than the other three entrants - Dawn Hillocks, Patricia Power, and Fiona Stewart - for that year's charities, The Bush Children's Health Scheme and Legacy.

With a combination of chocolate wheels, chook raffles, local dances, donation boxes in hotel bars, meat tray raffles and a rugby football match between the ladies of Toowoomba and Warwick, with a curtain-raiser challenge between Toowoomba and Brisbane jockeys, she did precisely that.

She clearly recalls the first Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers parade - when no one knew what to expect - which culminated in her crowning ceremony.

"I was walking along the bridge to my 'coronation', trying to manage my train, orb and sceptre, quite nervous as the crowning was to be done by Dame Annabelle Rankin, who was a senator at the time," she said.

"When all of a sudden, someone in the crowd shouted 'good onya, Fay!' which caused me to laugh and made me realise that no matter what I was pretending to be, I was really just still just Fay."

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is on September 20-29, and the full program is at tcof.com.au or find it on Facebook.

We'd love to see and hear your memories of the early years of Toowoomba's Carnival of Flowers. Write to us and send a favourite carnival photo to editor@seniorsnewspaper.com.au.


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