“Moruya” and “Mardi Gras” may seem worlds apart, but it wasn’t so long ago the Far South Coast had its own over-the-top parade.
Camels, marching girls, lifesavers and clowns made their way down Vulcan Street on the first Saturday of January for nearly 20 years.
The “Wild Man From Bendethera” frightened children, while Lady Godiva tried to shock the crowd.
On Saturday photography and history will collide to bring the Mardi Gras alive in a River of Art show at the Moruya Museum, curator Brian Harris said.
“Mardi Gras Mayhem is a photographic exhibition featuring wonderful images that capture the event’s colour and vitality,” he said.
“The community spirit that made the Mardi Gras so successful is obvious.”
The project began as a stack of old slides.
“We’ve had a stack of old slides stored for years, and decided to get them scanned,” Mr Harris said.
“When we saw the colours and faces, we just had to put them up. It’s a beautiful piece of social history.”
The first Mardi Gras was in 1959 and the last recorded was in 1978.
“The first headline was ‘Mardi Gras draws thousands’, and the event raised 905 pounds for the Moruya swimming pool, which was an enormous amount of money then,” Mr Harris said.
“It was all about involvement, and the community working together to improve Moruya. Russ Martin was very involved in the early days, and later it was John and Michel Nader, and Irene Thorpe – community leaders.”
Mr Harris said the events were significant in the town’s broader history.
“It fascinates me – to see the volume of people who attended one celebration is amazing,” he said.
“The community worked together for the pool, and they achieved that. They worked together for the preschool, and achieved that. Back then, if you wanted something, you had to get up and do it.”
He said many names and faces in the photographs were still moving and shaking in Moruya today: “These young people in the photos are still around and part of the community – it’s mind boggling; the boys about town in the 70s are now the gentlemen about town.”
An image of a young man on a camel with a water pipe catches the eye.
“Where they got the camel from I have no idea – the fellow on the camel is one of the Naders,” Mr Harris said.
“They brought the water pipe back from Lebanon. One of the joys is seeing people identify these faces, and we can keep that information. It really tapped a nerve with the community of Facebook – there have been lots of comments, identifying people who were there, and a photograph of a crowd then becomes a group of people.”
The exhibition will run until lat June, with extended opening hours for the River of Art festival. Exhibition hours are: Saturday, May 19, 11am-4pm, with the official opening at 2pm, Sunday, May 20, 11am-2pm, Wednesday, May 23, 10am-2pm, Friday, May 25, 10am-2pm, Saturday, May 26, 11am-4pm.