Historic day for Gympie as baton relay hits town
THE people of Gympie lined the streets of the CBD yesterday afternoon as the 2018 Commonwealth Games Queens Baton Relay passed through town.
Parents, students and onlookers of all ages braved sultry temperatures and high humidity to witness history as the baton began its Gympie journey at Albert Park in the capable hands of James Nash State High School Year 10 student and Queensland cross country representative Jared Blanco.
Festivities kicked off at 11:30, with an official Welcome to Country, entertainment by Games Boy, and a live performance from country music sensation and Gympie sweetheart Caitlyn Shadbolt.
Upon departing about 1pm, the baton was carried toward and through lower Mary St as crowds cheered, before exiting on to Mellor St and and making its way down to the One Mile Ovals about an hour later, arriving at 2pm.
The baton brigade, which featured multiple Games buses and a police escort, then journeyed to the Puma Kybong station, home to the famous Matilda statue from the Brisbane 1982 Games.
Jared's parents, Daniel and Belinda, who were present to see their son kick off the festivities, said they were "privileged and proud" to be a part of a "once in a lifetime event".
"We're not accustomed to this, it's a very big deal," Mr Blanco said.
"To watch our son carry the Queen's Baton is something I'll never see again in my lifetime."
Mr Blanco credited their son's athletic success to his coach Katrina Knight, who said Jared had determination and persistence she'd "never seen before".
Fellow baton bearer Natalie Upshall, who also participated in the relay for the 1982 Games, said it was an honour to be accepted as a participant for a second time.
"Last time I did this I was just a 14-year-old girl, I was a long-distance runner, and the baton itself was a lot heavier than it was this time," Ms Upshall said.
"It was only about 1.4kg this time, so it was a lot lighter and easier to carry.
"Doing it in the town atmosphere where there were lots of students from Gympie High cheering me on was a fantastic experience.
"To have my family and my children here to watch me this time is very special and something I'll never forget."
Local attendee Tanya Humphrey said she had made the time especially to watch the festivities.
"Who knows when it'll come back?" she said.
"People are busy, but it's a one off type of thing."
Jane Mathisen, who watched on as her husband Craig carried the baton, said the atmosphere of the day was unmissable.
"You just don't get a chance to see this often," she said.
Mayor Mick Curran said "a great turn out of community to the event" boosted its success.
"For a sporting town such as Gympie, it was a real honour to welcome the Queen's Baton and the Commonwealth Games representatives to our community," Cr Curran said.
"Thanks to all those have contributed to today's success, including schools, local emergency services, volunteers, students, parents, local businesses, council staff and residents from across the region.
"This was a one-off event for Gympie and we were proud to showcase our region.
"Congratulations to everyone who participated in making this a true community event, and congratulations to the baton bearers and the fantastic job they did on what turned out to be such a hot day."
"I think the kids and the schools who were involved at Albert Park, along the route and at One Mile were a highlight, their enthusiasm, cheering and support of the baton relay was great, I hope they enjoyed watching and participating in this historic event."
Cr Curran said council appreciated the public's patience with regards to road closures enforced throughout the event.