Port Pirie’s proud tradition of pageantry rolls on
While the 2019 Port Pirie Christmas Pageant dates back to 1960 in its present form, parades and pageants have been a vital part of the community going back to the 1880s.
Pageants were a grand part of civic life for decades, with Labour Day, Empire Day, various religious feasts and sporting events celebrated with marches and picnics.
The largest of the street pageants came at the conclusion of the Great War in 1919 and then after World War II in 1945.
The 1926 Jubilee Gala to mark Port Pirie was a full week of festivals, parades, marches and brass bands held throughout the township and parks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the town’s proclamation as a municipality.
Prior to the advent of land-based pageants Port Pirie’s major community celebration came with the New Years Day Regatta of 1879, one year after an earlier informal rowing race between the local lumpers and the dredgers. This grew into an annual parade along the river, later incorporating marching bands and fireworks.
All of these events created an atmosphere of a unique community, and particularly so for the region’s many hundreds of children.
After World War II there was a marked aversion towards military-styled “parades” and Port Pirie, like so many other communities of that period, looked to Christmas pageants as a way of celebrating optimism and peace after years of turbulence and international conflict.
Above: A peace march along Ellen Street. 1918
Nearly 60 years after the first of the new era of pageants the event is refreshed every year by hundreds of volunteers and sponsors. At the 2019 pageant organisers expect 56 floats, around 500 participants, 40 stalls and 70 volunteers.
The Christmas pageant will kick off at 7pm from near Memorial Gates at the corner of Memorial Drive and Gertrude Street. Christmas in the Park providing entertainment, shopping and food will run concurrently from 5:30pm until 10pm.
This year’s event will be the fourth pageant held in the cooler evening hours.
The 2016 decision to commence the pageant at later time along with running Christmas in the Park event together had breathed new life into the traditional event, according to pageant president Karen Seindanis.
She says the magic of the pageant to children is something many people who grew up in earlier generations might have taken for granted until they see the happiness through the eyes of a new generation of children.
“Like so many people of my age, I can remember being on a pageant float as a child – and looking out at all those smiling faces is something I’ll never forget,” she says.
“I still get that feeling every pageant, and I think a lot of other people share that.”
She said that in an era of so many children spending hours engaged with screens of computers and smart-phones, the pageant was a rare and priceless opportunity for genuine engagement in a happy gathering of real people at a beautiful time of the year.
Above: Wells and Co float entry in the Jaycees Christmas Parade. (Port Pirie Christmas Pageant) C1960
Above: The Greek Orthodox Community float entry in the Jaycees Christmas Parade. (Port Pirie Christmas Pageant) C1960
Above: Santa with the Port Pirie Regional Gymnastics Academy float participants at the 2017 Port Pirie Christmas Pageant
Above: Christmas in the Park, which runs concurrently with the Christmas Pageant. Both events are organised by the Port Pirie Christmas Pageant Inc. Committee
The Irish Pipe Band, always a pageant favourite