Float pays tribute to maternity hospital

Jenny (left) and Amy O’Brien hold some of the thousands of  crepe paper blossoms which will adorn...
Jenny (left) and Amy O’Brien hold some of the thousands of crepe paper blossoms which will adorn their float. Photo: Jono Edwards
Twenty years ago Alexandra woman Jenny O’Brien founded the Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital in the town.

Now 79, she thought a blossom festival float was the best way to commemorate the great work of midwives and nurses.

"I’ve got butterflies coming out my ears", she said of the thousands of crepe paper blossoms she has helped to make and stick to the structure.

"I’ve been very involved in it. Not bad for 79 years old."

The maternity-themed float will coast down the town’s main street tomorrow morning in the Alexandra Blossom Festival parade. Designs were not revealed until the day, but it would be decorated with prams, bassinets and "celebrate new life".

Granddaughter Amy O’Brien (15) will join her on the structure as one of the blossom festival princesses.

The initial idea was for the first baby born at the hospital to be on the float, but this did not eventuate. Instead, Mrs O’Brien was organising a few children to be on board, some of whom were born at the facility.

The whole family was involved in crafting the float, and her friends from the bowling club were tasked with helping to make blossoms.

Mrs O’Brien has attended most of the festivals since arriving in the town in 1970, but had only  recently  been involved in making floats.

Her son Roger O’Brien, who now manages the facility, said his mother had not been in great health recently, but the project gave her a great sense of purpose.

Blossom Festival co-ordinator Martin McPherson said the floats were not as numerous as they once were, but were still a crucial part of the event.

"It wouldn’t be the blossom festival without the floats or the parade."

This year there were six floats and six decorated shopping trolleys known as florries.

The festival was shaping up nicely and the weather forecast looked great, he said.

The event was boosted by three new events including a freestyle motocross tonight, a wrestling show tomorrow night and a Wings and Wheels car and plane show on Sunday.

"We really do have events for people of all ages."

Tickets were selling better than anticipated and between 6000 and 8000 people were expected at the Day in the Park tomorrow. The weekend festivities will begin with the Round The Clock Race at 5.15pm today  starting at the Linger and Die reserve. 

The  Mardi Gras, featuring bands and fireworks, will also take place tonight.


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