Pioneer celebrations

By: Jenny Schollum

Puhoi has always celebrated the anniversary of the day the first pioneers arrived in the settlement on June 29, 1863. According to the calendar of the Catholic Church, the feast day of St Peter and St Paul.


A church service was usually followed by a community meeting where decisions such as petitioning the government for a school building, setting up a roads board, making extensions to the church or arranging cemetery management were made. A large crowd of descendants from far and near always returned to Puhoi for the day.


No efforts were spared in ensuring a joyful commemoration of the first 50 years of the settlement. The SS Kotiti arrived on Sunday 28 June, 1913 with many passengers who were greeted with a musical welcome by the Puhoi Brass Band. Monday the 29th dawned fine and clear. Two Masses were held to accommodate the numbers of those giving thanks to God. In the hall, Monsignor Brodie presented badges to pioneers, saying that they had proved themselves worthy of the highest respect and honour. Afterwards, between five and six hundred attended a banquet at the Puhoi Hotel. Photographs followed, while the band entertained from the hotel balcony. From 3pm a number of speakers gave addresses in the hall. Benedict Remiger, who emigrated on his own, aged 12, read an account of his journey on the ship War Spirit. The rest of the day was devoted to dancing.


The 60th anniversary saw the opening of the convent, the convent school and the installation of stained glass windows dedicated to the memory of the pioneers. This was followed by a similar programme to the 50th anniversary.


In 1953, the 90th celebrations included a re-enactment of the pioneer landing. The War Memorial gates to the Puhoi Pioneers Memorial Park were officially opened, the park itself having been opened at the 75th anniversary celebrations. The wayside shrine at the eastern entrance to the village was also dedicated. Native trees were planted opposite the hall.


In 1963, 6000 people are reported to have celebrated three days of events for the settlement’s centenary – a pioneer landing re-enactment, a street parade (which included a bullock team), displays of bush work, a beard growing competition and a walk to the cemetery reciting the Rosary, as well as church services, banquets and, of course, dancing.


Half a century on from the centennial of 1963, Puhoi’s population had changed from being almost entirely Bohemian-descended, to a population comprising a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds. Six months of community events, leading up to three full-on days of festivities centred around the weekend of June 29, reflected the contribution these newcomers have made to our community.


This year, the 154th anniversary, celebrations include a rock and roll dance, Mass, shared luncheon and get together with music and dancing.  All are welcome to participate in the public events.

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