By SALLY GORDON
A CROWD into the thousands braved the night-time chill at Market Square on Saturday to officially welcome in new members to the 2004 Jacaranda royal party.
The festival's crowning ceremony, described as nothing short of spectacular, included a delightful mix of entertainment and celebration to mark its 70th anniversary.
Grafton singer/songwriter Samantha McClymont, 18, was crowned the 2004 Jacaranda Queen.
Seventeen-year-old Katina Swan was named Jacaranda Princess while the Daily Examiner's Emma Cornford took home the sash for Jacaranda Holiday Princess.
Grafton's newly crowned Queen, widely known for her musical talent, said yesterday she was enthusiastic about the year ahead as a Jacaranda representative.
"I think this is just absolutely wonderful. I am so excited. Jacaranda has always been a big part of my life," Samantha said.
"I'm so proud I could be apart of the 70th anniversary."
The 7pm ceremony made for an exciting, and by all accounts nerve-wracking finish, for the Jacaranda candidates, who have spent the past two months fundraising and preparing for the weekend's event.
Jacaranda Festival President June Allen said the calibre of senior candidates for 2004 was outstanding.
"The judges found it very difficult, they found that the girls were so equal in every way," Ms Allen said.
"They came to me with the question of 'what do we do if it's a draw?' ? I just said they'll need to discuss it further if it's a draw."
Ms Allen extended the compliment to all 10 Junior Jacaranda Queen candidates.
Meghan Haines, 14, was named the Junior Jacaranda Queen and Melissa Smidt, 14, was sashed Junior Jacaranda Princess.
The Saturday night ceremony officialy awarded Ms Allen her Jacaranda Festival life membership badge.