COSTUMED CAPERS: Ian Preston has albums full of festival memories.
COSTUMED CAPERS: Ian Preston has albums full of festival memories. BELINDA SCOTT

The "fairy” who climbed the Grafton clock tower

IAN Preston is a dignified 68-year-old retired government executive.

But you have to imagine him dressed in a gauzy pink tutu, complete with wings, a magic wand and old army boots, dangling from a civic monument.

That is the image of "Blue" Preston cherished by many Graftonians, because he is known far and wide as the fairy who climbed the clock tower during the Jacaranda Festival.

And he didn't just do it once. He climbed the clock tower swathed in satin and wearing a crown and a purple cloak; he climbed the clock tower wearing pink tulle; he climbed the clock tower dressed as a flower.

Every year saw a new theme and a new outfit, as Ian and his work colleagues got into the spirit of Jaca Thursday, dressed to amuse and entertained festival goers with impromptu shows based on everything from flower gardens, farmyards and the flying doctor to coronations and weddings

Ian's wife Marie manned the sewing machine for many of his outfits, including an impressive feathered rooster costume which she said took her weeks to make.

The climb became a recognised part of the festival in the 1970s and 1980s, drawing crowds of locals and tourists to the city centre, but Ian said he "retired gracefully" in the early 1990s as his children were growing up.

He prefers the images of the time to stay in the albums.

"That was a different era," Ian said.

"We used to joke about OH&S in those days and no, I didn't do a risk assessment. Tourist buses from all over Australia used to drive down the main street and we would hold them up, jump aboard and ride with them; stop police cars and sit on their bonnets - it's different today."

The Woolgoolga resident, has many fond memories of Grafton and its s annual festival, which this year is being held until November 6, with 43 different events taking place during the nine-day festival.

These range from parades to picnics; from fun runs to fairs and flower shows; from baby shows to boat races; concerts to car rallies and from Queen crowning to a Venetian carnival.

"It's a really great festival and Jaca Thursday is quite unique," Ian said.

For a full listing of what's on, visit jacaranda festival.org.au


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