Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Blossom Queen, A festival And A Riot : Helena La Hood (nee Hannah)

Cynthia Bowers gave a brief history of how the blossom festival started.
Napier in early 1920 had their 30 thousand club with Mardi gras and Carnival Queen and shopping extravaganzas, promoting Napier.
After the 1931 earthquake they took the lead role to Napier's redevelopement.
They help establish the sound shell and promenade, and helped retaillers get back on their feet.
Hastings decided to have a carnival of their own. In 1922 the first Hastings carnival was held, wooden arches were erected across the main street, they had late night shopping, best shop display and a carnival parade with model T's and bicycles.
In 1923 HWC Baird decided that they should hold carnival to celebrate 50 years of the establishment of Hastings.
In 1935 a "progress League" was formed to further the progress of Hastings. help the economy and beautify the district.
In 1937 a carnival was held to celebrate Hastings becoming a borrough as well as King George VI coronation. A ball was held as well as a carnival.
In 1950 Hastings reached a population of 20,000 and was proclaimed a city
City status was bestowed on Hastings in the March 1950 this quote was in the HB Herald Tribune " Hastings, yesterday a swamp today a borough, tomorrow a city" as part of the celebrations of Hastings becoming a borough.
In the earlier half 1950 Harry Poppelwell said Hastings was living snuggly on its laurels do very little to move ahead. He formed a group to see what they could do to get the community involved and progress Hastings as a city. In May 1950 Greater Hastings Incorporated was formed. 100 citzens signed as subscribers and paid 5 pounds as a subscription.
The first event the Greaters Hastings Incorporate dorganised was the Blossom festival. This was supported by the Fruitgrowers Association, the Hastings City Council and also by the Retaillers The first Blossom festival was held in 1950. The shops were decorated and there were 41 floats in the parade as well as bands and walkers. Some retailers used the floats as forms of advertising new products or in the case of Bailey's Motors the newest model car out.
The next event they organised was the Easter Highland Games. The first Easter Highland games was held Easter 1951 at Nelson Park. Nelson park only had a grass track then. The Highland games consisted of athletics, woodchopping, show jumping, Archery. It became an annual event and it attracted top class athletes over the years including Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and Precious McKenzie.
The 3rd event the Greater Hastings Incorporated organised was to make a fantasy garden and park on part of windsor park. This was the foundation of Fantasyland. It become a huge success.

The Blossom parades got bigger and better each year. In 1952 there were 45 floats and the standard of floats improved with lots more decoration. In 1953 there were 47 floats 17,000 people and the standard improve yeat again more creative and elaborate floats less advertising and more blossoms.
In 1954 there 55 floats including floats from Napier, and there was in excess of 20,ooo people. Citzens were coming from Napier and districts.
In 1955 there were 69 vehicle driven floats as well and hand pushed floats and walkers and bands. 600 people came from Wellington by train and there was between 35,00 and 40,000 people there. The strees were lined the whole way round the parade course.
1956 there were two parade one on the 8th September and one the following Saturday the 15th September. The 15th was the main blossom parade and there were 2 trains from Wellington, one from Gisborne and busses from Napier and surrounds. In excess of 50,000 people turned out to watch the parade.
In 1957 the idea of Blossom Queen was introduced. The first Blossom Queen was Fiona MacDonald. The Parade now started at Queen Square went via main street to Stortford Lodge, back down St Aubyn Street to finish at Windsor Park.
The 1958 Blossom Queen was Deidre French.
In 1959 the Blossom Arches were designed and erected in the main street.
The parade was enormous retaillers participated with Shop windows full on blossom displays and catalogue was delivered to every household with a mystery number which you had to find your number in the window display to claim your prize. They had "The Best dressed window "and "The best dressed women" competitions. The parade of floats went for 1 mile long and Napier City Council had a float in the parade too. There was 100 floats as well as pipe band, highland pipes and walkers.
1960 parade became known as the "Blossom Festival Riot" as it was delayed and half canceleld beacuse of the weather. Helena La Hood was the blossom Queen.
Helena will talk more on this and what it was like to be a blossom queen.
1972 was the last blossom parade held in hastings until 1990 when it was re established by Mayor Jeremy Dwyer and David Fine who starte the new Blossom festival we have today.

James Morgan talked about "Hastings Blossom Festival ‘riot’, 1960"
The Hastings Blossom Festival of 1960 became famous for its so-called ‘riot’. The float parade had been cancelled because of wet weather. This, combined with an influx of young people in the city centre, overcrowding in hotels and overbearing crowd-control tactics (like the use of fire-hoses) created a situation where fights readily broke out. Moral panic in the wake of this incident inflated it in the popular imagination to a full-scale riot instigated by rebellious young people. In reality only a small number of people were actually fighting. Twelve were charged, and only with minor offences related to disorderly behaviour.
However the Blossom parade of 1960 goes down in history as the year of the “Blossom Riot”. Because rain delayed the parade many visitors sought shelter in one of the 5 or 6 hotels in the main street and a brawl that started in the Albert Hotel, on the corner of Heretaunga Street and Karamu Road and spilled out into the intersection. Police were called in and after a police car was damaged the Fire Brigade were called and on arrival started hosing everyone in sight. This eventually had the desired affect and things quietly returned to normal. This came to be known as the “Battle of Hastings” or in some cases the “Second Battle of Hastings

Helena La Hood (nee Hannah) Blossom Queen 1960 talks about 1960 Crowning and what its like to be a Queen.

Hastings' Blossom Festival was first held in 1950 and was the creation of Greater Hastings (note the provocative title), an organisation established to provide an Easter attraction (The Highland Games) as "there was nothing to keep people in Hastings, and nothing to attract visitors to Hastings".The Blossom Queen contest was added in 1957. At the height of the Blossom Festivals in the 1950s, an estimated 50,000 people crammed the streets of Hastings to view the floats, decorated with paper crepe blossoms.The rules for contestants entering the 1960 Blossom Queen Contest stated (among other things): they had to be aged between 18 and 28; unmarried; and possess: poise, personality, charm, beauty of face and figure, education, voice quality, speaking ability and be in good health.No swimsuit parade would occur: "This is not a bathing beauty contest - but a blossom festival quest."The winner would receive a wardrobe of clothes valued at £100 and go on a free, two week trip to Surfers Paradise. Greater Hastings would provide a suitable chaperone for the trip.Helena La Hood (nee Hannah) was visiting relatives in Australia when she received a telegram from her father Paul, saying the Hastings Orphans Club had nominated her as a Blossom Queen candidate.

After arriving back from her holiday, Helena had just two days to prepare for the first round of the competition.Three Blossom Queen Concerts were held at the Hastings Municipal Theatre (now Hawke's Bay Opera House), until the judges selected 12 girls out of 23 contestants to advance to the coronation concert on September 1. The first concert night contained a quiz, and Helena was asked: "What are the three independent schools in Havelock North? What are the four great powers of the world? What impressions of New Zealand would you give if you went to Australia? If you won a great deal of money, what would you do with it?"There was much excitement for her when she was selected in the final 12 girls. Judge Rolf Keys said the winner should "have the figure of Marilyn Monroe, beauty of Grace Kelly and the charm of a member of the royal family". Famed quizmaster Selwyn Toogood would do his Magic Carpet quiz show at the coronation, which would be broadcast on radio throughout New Zealand - as well as announcing the winner of the Blossom Queen contest at 10pm. Helena's parents thought they would make her nervous at the contest, so they listened at home.She won a vacuum cleaner at the Magic Carpet show, and a washing machine on Saturday night's It's in the Bag show with Toogood, but laughs as she remembers she never received the prizes.It came as a shock to Helena when her name was called out as winner, and was crowned by Miss Paradise, Jean Clark from Surfers Paradise, Queensland.Helena had made plans to be fitted for a bridesmaid's dress at the weekend, never thinking she had a chance to win. Despite no sleep due to the excitement of being crowned Blossom Queen, she turned up to work the next day at the Loan and Mercantile Agency. Her manager told her not to worry about work that morning, and sent her home. Many public appearances followed her win as Blossom Queen, including opening Napier's new Odeon Picture Theatre that year. She also went for a ride in a glider, rode go-carts, and handed out prizes at a boxing tournament. She visited schools and was promoting Hastings. Miss Paradise Jean Clark was a popular visitor to Hastings, becoming an instant celebrity, and was paraded from Stortford Lodge down Heretaunga St with a traffic officer motorbike escort the day before the Blossom Festival. Thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of her. As a Seventh Day Adventist, Jean declined to take part in the Saturday Blossom Parade.When Jean left Hastings she wrote a letter of thanks to everyone, and said "she would not like to forget the Maori people". Jean was no doubt referring to young Ted Bennett, the handsome singer of Teddy and the Bears, who she met at a Blossom Queen Concert. Jean and Ted kept in contact, and later married in 1963. Tragedy later struck the marriage with their son Stephen, being in a coma for three years as a result of a car crash, while Jean herself was killed in a car accident in Newcastle in August 1985 - while her son was still in the coma.Helena left for her trip to Australia - with no chaperone - in July 1961, with a yellow orchid corsage presented by Greater Hastings, which had to disposed of before landing in Australia due to the regulations.Little did the army of press representatives that met her at the airport know that between her hair and hat was a yellow orchid corsage. While in Queensland, she met the mayor of Surfers' Paradise, and had morning tea with the Minister of Tourism. The trip was a fitting end to her reign, in which a lot was expected of her. Her last duty was to crown the next Blossom Queen for 1961.

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