By SHELLEY TOPP
Cheviot is basking in the spring afterglow after three days of celebrations to mark 125 years of European settlement.
Its spring festival last weekend showcased all that is good about the close-knit North Canterbury community, which has weathered the troubling aftermath of drought and earthquakes in recent years.
Festivities began on Friday, ahead of market stalls and a fete on Saturday in the grounds of Cheviot Area School.
The 75 stalls drew a large crowd of locals and out-of-towners. The fete included live music, morris dancers, a huge white elephant stall, face-painting and a fashion show.
The show, featuring fashion through the ages, was compered by Sheree Haugh and organised by Natashya Stronach with the owners of His N Hers Formal Attire Hire @ Spotswood, Lesley and Garry Quayle.
Almost all of the fashion in the show was supplied by the Quayles.
Cheviot Hills Reserve Board member David Anderson hosted two guided walks through the reserve during the day and the new Cheviot heritage trail, instigated by the Cheviot Museum staff, was also launched.
Later that night the Through the Eras Ball drew residents in all their finery to the rooms of the Cheviot Rugby Club.
Celebrations continued on Sunday with the official opening of the Cheviot Knox Community Centre, formerly the Knox Presbyterian Church.
The opening ceremony included the unveiling of the brick paver memorial cross, which was the idea of the centre’s chairwoman Jane Maxwell.
The cross has played an important role in the public fundraising campaign to
purchase the church and hall from the Presbyterian Church for the Cheviot community.
Jane saw the memorial cross as a way to help move the thinking about the buildings belonging to the Presbyterians to belonging to the whole community and anchoring it with brick pavers.
“I could see how we could marry the two with the help of the buy-a-brick campaign.
“Although not everyone grasped the overall concept, the brick fundraising has been very successful.”
The cross was unveiled by Auckland architect Richard Archbold, the great grandson of Margaret Hyde (known as Greta), who laid the foundation stone for the church.
Although it was decided that it would not be prudent to ask Hurunui ratepayers to buy the church, Jane thanked Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley
in her opening speech for his continuing support of the project.
She also thanked key sponsors who helped finance the project.
“Today we have present members of the Sutherland family who decided to make the distribution of funds from the Sutherland Self-Help Trust to the areas affected by the Kaikoura earthquake.
“They may never understand the personal relief and genuine thrill that on the very day I needed to have one-third of the money in hand (for the
church project), in order to qualify for the New Zealand Lottery grants scheme, was the very day we had confirmation of our successful application.
“In other words, it was the Sutherland money that secured us the ability to get larger funds,” she said.
“The second real lift, and total surprise, was when the Archbold family made contact offering some sponsorship.
Their family connection with the construction of the church is very special to their family.”
The centre was opened by Mr Dalley and Mrs Maxwell.
Mr Dalley said it was a pleasure to be invited to the event.
“I count it as a real privilege to be here to take part in these celebrations.”
He said that without the energy and perseverance of those involved in the project, the church might have been lost to the community.”
Nukuroa Tirikatene-Nash, representing Ngi Tahu, was also a guest speaker.
He highlighted the importance of communities working together to achieve better outcomes for all.
The community centre’s opening began with a Cheviot Community Spring service at 11am in the church, which was decorated for the festival with
an exhibition of floral art, Flower Arranging Through the Ages, prepared by the Cheviot Floral Art Group.
It closed with the popular Cheviot Celebrates with Song concert in the church.
The McAlpines North Canterbury Pipe Band member Robert Forrester,
from Omihi, piped visitors back to the church from the community hall after lunch for the concert featuring country and western singers Bruce
and Bruce, flautist Tamara Smith, and the Vocal Locals choir.
Sunday’s celebrations began in the morning with the commemorative planting of a red oak tree at the Cheviot Hills Reserve.
The tree was donated by the Cheviot Beautification Group and planted by Mr Dalley. He described the reserve as “one of our gems in this district”.