UNLOCKING THE PAST: Back to Cessnock Week 1949 had something for everyone

There is nothing like a community celebration to bring people together and in the late 1940s Cessnock really put one on.

Back-to-Cessnock Week was a festival held from October 29 to November 6, 1949 with a program crowded with events for everyone.

A Grand Athletic Carnival was on at the sportsground and advertised as open to all comers, both men and women with events including basketball, archery, hurdle races, shot putt, relay, novelty races and, intriguingly, footrunning.

Other sporting competitions were on offer as well: tennis, swimming, bowling, golf and motor cycling. If you liked your festival to really go off with a bang an all-day shooting event was organised at Cessnock Rifle Range.

Over at the racecourse horses were competing for the Cessnock Cup and the Coalfields Cup, while the Sensational Boxing Carnival lived up to its name with an eye-watering 44 rounds of boxing. Not your thing? A more gentle evening could be spent at the Lyceum Hall gliding along the floor at an Old Time Dance.

A Sacred Concert was held at the sportsground where a rich range of vocal and musical performances ended with a dramatic grand finale of massed bands and choirs singing the Welsh hymns Cwm Rhondda and Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.

If you preferred a quieter festival experience the West End Congregational Church held an exhibition of needlework, cookery and dressed dolls and the Young Womens Christian Association hosted a garden party. Rover Motors took tours to spots of scenic beauty such as Quorrobolong Lookout and Mount View, promising that this wonderful panoramic view will delight you.

A Mardi Gras pin

A Mardi Gras pin

But looking at the weeks packed program what stands out is the number of marches. There were four down Vincent Street, two from the Northern District Associated Bands, one combined schools march with 2500 children and the weeks highlight an evening Mardi Gras which paraded from the former Cessnock Railway Station all the way to the School of Arts and back again.

Prizes were awarded for the best entry in the categories of: sports float, most attractive costume (male and female), most humorous costume (male and female) and best decorated motor cycle, bicycle and billy cart.

To fund the Mardi Gras souvenir badges were created and these were sold for two weeks before the event. One of these rare badges has survived and due to a generous donation is now part of the Local Studies collection at Cessnock Library.

To get into the mood the Mardi Gras organisers asked the public to attend in fancy dress costume, particularly extending an invitation to New Australians to come along preferably in national costume.

Local buses provided transport from outlying areas into Cessnock, allowing all local residents to get to their Mardi Gras.

In true community spirit the organisers announced that all the profits they made from the Mardi Gras would be donated to charity.

Kimberly O'Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock Library