Vanessa Collins, from That Shop in Coolangatta, gets into the Wintersun theme at Point Danger with a 1935 Ford Sedan.
Vanessa Collins, from That Shop in Coolangatta, gets into the Wintersun theme at Point Danger with a 1935 Ford Sedan. Tweed Daily News/Crystal Spencer

Rock roll winter & sun

WinterSun 2009 is in full swing and is as popular as ever. It has taken on a new face since it was first held way back in May 1982.

The first Tweed Heads-Coolangatta WinterSun Carnival ran from Saturday, May 8 to Sunday, May 17 and was described at the time as the biggest tourist initiative ever staged in Tweed Heads and Coolangatta.

The joint promotional effort of the Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Chambers of Commerce was the culmination of months of effort by a small band of hard working local people and the chairman of the organising committee, Dave Russell, said at the launch of the first WinterSun carnival that it would generate the most excitement seen in the area since the days of the hokey-pokey on the beach.

The carnival's official opening ceremony was launched at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club, one of the major sponsors, on Thursday, May 6, and the occasion was highlighted with a special indoor bowls event with a host of celebrities taking part.

Opening day events on Saturday featured a market fair at Chris Cunningham Park alongside the northern boat harbour and an exhibition of 17 hot rods, driven down from Brisbane, at Tweed City Shopping Centre.

The events program was extensive and featured a billy cart derby, skateboard championship, beach concert, fireworks spectacular, Coolangatta street fair, Bluewater canoe classic, pro-am surfing, squash tournament, Water World roller derby, electronics fair, WinterSun Olympics, bowls carnival, windsurfing race, children's film festival, marathon swim, water ski display, family fun day, funny run, Miss Twin Towns Quest ball, hot rod show, debating contest, nostalgic photographic display, air sea rescue display, youth ballet performance and a cavalcade of horsepower.

The Miss Twin Towns Quest, incorporated into the WinterSun program, got a head start over the other activities and the eventual winner was Miss Fiona Peher, of Tweed Heads.

For possibly the first time Griffith Street, Coolangatta was closed to traffic for a street festival.

The nine days culminated in a cavalcade of horsepower procession featuring over 50 motor and horse powered vehicles of all ages and types, a death defying billy cart derby down boundary Street and a massive fireworks display at Chris Cunningham Park.  

Despite the enormous success of the inaugural WinterSun Carnival, Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Chambers of Commerce presidents Jack Robertson and Bob Hancock, who were carnival co-ordinators along with Radio 2MW's Marilyn Smith, determined to make the 1983 event even bigger and brighter than ever. The carnival theme was “WinterSun - the Breakaway State” and the official poster featured Tweed Heads and Coolangatta as the entrance to Australia.

The areas beaches, accommodation, shopping centres, sporting facilities and licensed clubs with their featured entertainment were heavily promoted.

A similar events format was adopted with other attractions added in the ten day carnival that got underway on May 6. Popular with the crowds was the celebrity bowls event where Peter Allen, who was appearing at the Twin Towns Services Club, was the main drawcard.

The carnival was attracting increasing interest with more than 30 leading Australian artists participating in the WinterSun Art Show Exhibition held at Desmonds Restaurant at Tweed Heads.

The cultural event drew high praise from National Party leader Doug Anthony who officially opened the exhibition.

In the wake of the spectacular fireworks display that closed the 1983 carnival, Jack Robertson declared he was certain the carnival would “attract the general attention the southern end of the Gold Coast deserves” but warned that future success would depend on even greater support from the business houses and everyone in the area.

He was supported in his comments by Bob Hancock who said that planning for the 1984 WinterSun Carnival was already underway.

The WinterSun Carnival was getting bigger and better with more than 20 major events now featured on the list of activities. The combined Chambers of Commerce decided that the job of organising the 1984 festival would be handed over to a professional and Cobaki man, Mr John Craig, was chosen for the challenging task.

The ten-day carnival commenced on May 4 with a “Life Be In It” theme and its highlight was the WinterSun National Supercart Derby.

The race was an international event with the American champions from Amarilla, Texas competing against local riders for Australia's Cup.

The two cart track ran from the top of Boundary Street for a distance of 291 metres and the huge job of erecting the protective fence and placing 800 bales of hay in position was accomplished by a volunteer team from Coolangatta and Tweed Heads Apex and Lions clubs and the district life savers.

The whole community was taking to the parks, beaches and roads to either participate in or watch the many events and activities in a happy carnival spirit.  

IN 1985 WinterSun was into its fourth year of fun under the chairmanship of George Beattie and Bob Hancock and run by the combined Coolangatta-Kirra and Tweed Heads Chambers of Commerce. The festival highlight was a week of jazz conducted by one of Australia's great jazz groups, Melbourne's Graeme Bell and The All Stars. The original band was the first jazz band to leave Australia and it toured Europe in 1947-48 and 1950-52.

The week ended with a wine, food and jazz festival on the Coolangatta Beach foreshore. More than 60 stalls sold home made food, plants, produce and arts and crafts in the park while Marine Parade was blocked off to traffic so that wine and food stalls could operate in the street.  

IN 1988 major changes were made to WinterSun. The carnival started a three week program on Saturday, June 4, 1988 with a Bi-Centennial billycart derby in Coolangatta.

The seventh annual event was extended a week with the introduction of a 50s and 60s carnival that was likened to a revival of the days when Coolangatta was considered the “honeymoon” capital of Australia.

This two-day event over the weekend of the June 10-11 June comprised a full day of entertainment, a display of cars and bikes of the era, a fashion of the fifties parade and performances by bands and entertainers who brought back memories of the 50s and 60s with the music of Elvis, the Beatles and others.

WinterSun's theme in 1989 was “Let the good times roll” and the second year of rock and roll with its 50s and 60s music under WinterSun coordinator Barry McNamara was again a major drawcard for revellers from far and wide.

The custom car show was divided into prize categories of pre- and post-1948 and attracted more than 50 cars from all around Australia.

The lovingly maintained and decorated entries remained on public display on Marine Parade. Record crowds of 8000 locals and visitors flocked to watch or take part in the street parades, car shows, dancing and other forms of entertainment.  

BY WinterSun 1990 the 50s and 60s format was here to stay under the supervision of carnival coordinator Barry McNamara. The festival that year hit top gear when a procession of nearly 100 hot rods and 1920s and 30s custom cars from across Australia roared into the Twin Towns on Saturday, June 9.

Throughout the festival colourfully costumed rock and rollers jived in the streets and flocked to the shows. Rock and roll memorabilia was on display and up for sale.

Since those early times the annual carnival has continued to attract thousands of local, national and international devotees who make their regular pilgrimage to soak up our winter sun and enjoy all that the Twin Towns has on offer.

Not even bad weather has been able to put a damper on WinterSun.

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