Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers‘ first-ever Carnival Queen Fay Clayden reflects on 70 years of golden memories.

Fay used some tactical strategies to keep her competitors guessing as to how much money she raised, as she ran chook raffles and chocolate wheels to win the first-ever crown. “To keep up local enthusiasm the Carnival Committee erected a gigantic barometer atop of Coles, with the four contestants’ names and their monetary success shown on a moving indicator. I became concerned when my name barely moved from the bottom. Expressing this concern to my mother, she became evasive. Her explanation was, “Fay, carnivals, and competitions are like a game of poker. You don’t show your hand!” she said. “It was not until the night of the final announcement when she went down to the Carnival office with bags of uncounted money that it was discovered that I had raised as much as the other three contestants combined!”

Despite taking out the title of Carnival Queen it was a very unlikely path to victory. Fay was 19 and working as a ticket seller at the Princess Picture Theatre when she was nominated for Carnival Queen. “I remember it vividly when my mother returned, she told me I’d been nominated to be sponsored by the Association.” Fay’s reply was cautious, she said, “Doing what? Nominated to do what?”After her mother explained the Association wanted her to be their sponsored contestant in the proposed Carnival Queen competition, her initial reaction was horror. “I said, ‘It’s not one of those beauty pageants, is it? If so, I don’t want to be in it’.” Fay was relieved she was not going to be a pageant girl when  her mother explained, “It’s a competition to raise funds. Whoever raises the most money wins the contest and becomes the Carnival Queen. Quite simple really and it is all for a wonderful cause.”’

The idea to raise funds for The Bush Children’s Health Scheme and Legacy was initiated by her father who suggested, `chook raffles and chocolate wheels’. Fay ramped up her fundraising efforts through local dances, donation boxes in hotel bars and meat tray raffles. However, what brought the donation goal home was an organised rugby match between Ladies of Toowoomba and Ladies of Warwick. Fay’s father, always keen to lend a hand to fundraising efforts, suggested a curtain raiser and her idea was to stage a match between Toowoomba Jockeys and Brisbane Jockeys. “My father was well connected in the horse racing community. The football match was an amazing event and created great interest,” she said.

Fay Clayden could never have guessed the lasting impact the Carnival, still run to this day, would have in the community of Toowoomba. “That first Carnival of Flowers was a great success. For me, the memories of that first event have lasted 70 years. Overall, being in the right place at the right time and having this wonderful experience that took place and continues to do so in the beautiful garden city of Toowoomba; a slice of paradise has become in my mind a golden memory.”

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