Hidden Treasure: Denise a driving force behind the festival
DENISE Slingsby's reaction to being named as a "Hidden Treasure" this year was appropriate for its namesake.
"Well I thought it might be hidden," she laughed.
"I was very honoured that someone thought enough of me to go ahead and do it, but anyone who knows me knows I'm not an out there sort of person."
And it is for her role, seemingly in the background yet critical to the annual Jacaranda Festival, that she has been nominated for, and was also recognised with a life membership of the festival last year.
Tasked to get the Jacaranda Queen's party to each of the events, she has delivered them safely for 36 years now as their driver.
"In 1978 I was a Jacaranda candidate, and a couple of years later I saw the lady that drove me around - and I said if you need extra drivers let me know," Mrs Slingsby said.
"Back then, there were a lot more girls, so we often had three or four cars and six drivers, whereas now it's just me and a van provided."
And with the event count for this year rounding at around 50, it is her preparation and organisation that keeps the festival's star attraction on track.
"Even with only three candidates, I'm often picking them up from each end of the town, so I start an hour before the first event, and finish an hour afterwards," she said.
"I know every event and day off by heart, and though there are little changes here and there, I know they appreciate that I can tell them what to expect and what they'll have to do in each event.
"I've had one call me the Mother Superior," she laughed.
And without that organisation, and the ability to keep her charges on track, the community would miss out seeing the queens party, something Mrs Slingsby says is still very important to them.
"A few years ago it was up around 70 events we went to, now it's down to just 50, and sometimes you only get half an hour to get in and get out, and when some run late you have to be on top of where you're going," she said.
"I think it's a very important part of the festival to have them go around. Each group really looks forward to seeing them, and we have them speak at each event and tell them what they've been doing each day, so they spread the word to others in town and the visitors about what's going on.
"I think the queen is still very important for the town to have the queen quest, even though things have to change it's nice to have that tradition and to have the figurehead for the festival."
And for Denise, who takes a week of annual leave from her work to 'do her job' with the festival, she says while ever she enjoys it she'll keep doing it.
"I get to meet people that I'd never come across normally and see things that you just wouldn't see, and I know they're appreciative of what I do," she said.