Year-long Swanfels saga put to rest with celebration
LATER this month the chapter will close on a year-long saga, with a historic celebration of a cherished community hub.
The Swanfels Playshed, long the heart of the small valley community will enjoy a gala re-opening on Saturday April 21, complete with a street procession, live music, stalls, vintage cars all in a throwback to the original opening celebration in 1986, but it's been one hell of a battle getting to this point.
Early last year, the cherished shed was ripped down by Southern Downs Regional Council who cited termite issues for the demolition.
Community uproar was immediate and council formulated plans to rebuild the structure to the original specifications.
Then in February this year, the newly-finished shed was opened and a plaque laid at the Back To Swanfels day, much to the ire of local residents and the Southern Downs Residents Action Group (RAnGe).
RAnGe member and reopening co-organiser Jenn Greene-Galloway said the community had been completely ignored in the lead-up to that event.
"A non-community member suggested the re-opening be in February. The April 21 date was decided at the next community meeting, as there wouldn't be enough time to organise the gala celebration we wanted to put on, almost a replica of the original opening in 1986," she said.
"The community set the April date, of which council was aware, but to the community's dismay, council went ahead and a plaque was laid in February at an event for former residents of the area."
Milton Rippingale said he had come along to the Back to Swanfels day to catch up with old friends.
"I just happened to be there," he said.
"And I was very surprised to see the mayor and councillors show up.
"People in this area were not happy at all that this had happened, there was a lot of resentment - it really was an insult to the local community."
Regardless the group decided to push on with their plans for a re-opening of the playshed in April.
"When this shed was ripped down last year, it was like the heart of Swanfels had been ripped out," Mr Rippingale said.
"It was more than a shed we lost, it was our history, our memories and the soul of the valley.
"We were very dirty on the council for pulling it down but they have done a good turn by rebuilding it and giving future generations a great spot to gather for the next 100 to 150 years."
The April 21 re-opening is modelled closely on the original opening celebration 32 years ago, after the shed was purchased by the Swanfels community and moved from the closed Swanfels school to the nearby recreation reserve.
A street parade will wind down Swanfels Rd for nearly a kilometre to the shed and the heritage of the area will be celebrated with a bullock team demonstration, vintage machines, heavy horses and a performance from the Warwick Thistle Pipe Band, the Travelling Country Music Band and Rusty Ute.
Mrs Greene-Galloway said the day would be a grand celebration of the area and the people.
"Anyone and everyone is welcome to come along," she said.
"This will be all about new beginnings."
The event will run at the Swanfels Playshed from 10am to 4pm, with the street procession from 10.30am.