LOYAL TO THE ROYALS: Jeff Smith’s collection of portraits features Jacaranda Queens from 1943 to the present and is now on permanent display at I Scream in Prince St.
LOYAL TO THE ROYALS: Jeff Smith’s collection of portraits features Jacaranda Queens from 1943 to the present and is now on permanent display at I Scream in Prince St.

A room fit for the Queens – all 71 of them

FOR the first time in the Jacaranda Festival's 80-year history, all 71 Jacaranda Queens can be seen together in the same room.

As you might expect, it already has people talking.

The collection of portraits, which feature each of the former Queens, was gathered over eight painstaking months by Jeff Smith, co-owner of I Scream and member of the Jacaranda Festival Committee.

Now on permanent display at the I Scream ice cream parlour in Prince St, the collection offers the chance to look back at Grafton's royalty and changing fashions.

Mr Smith said the idea for the display came from a brainstorming session for the business.

"We were talking about creating a display of famous celebrities, but that's all been done before, and we wanted something different - something that would reflect Grafton," he said.

"So we thought - what's more Grafton than the Jacaranda Queen?"

When he started to search for the portraits in February, Mr Smith said he was surprised to discover the collection didn't exist.

"I was stunned it had never been done before," he said.

With the help of Jacaranda Festival archivist Cheryl Barnes, the Grafton Historical Society and The Daily Examiner archives, Mr Smith eventually located all 71 portraits, starting with the first-ever Jacaranda Queen, Marie Fraser, in 1943.

"Some were easier to find than others . . . the festival committee has lost contact with many of the former Queens but this has been a great chance to reconnect with many of them," he said.

"As former Queens they will always have a connection to each other and to Grafton."

Now the photos are together, Mr Smith says it will be on permanent display, with space for new portraits to be added.

He has given a digital copy of the collection to the festival committee and The Daily Examiner to preserve it long into the future.



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