When the famous purple trees bloom throughout Grafton later this year, heralding the arrival of the 2022 Jacaranda Festival, a new era will also blossom into life.
For the first time in 88 years, Jacaranda candidate nominations have been opened to all gender identities, making the oldest floral festival celebrated in Australia an inclusive event.
Last week, a number of prospective candidates met at the Grafton District Services Club (GDSC) to attend a special information evening.
Hosted by 2021 Jacaranda Queen Hanna Craig and her Royal Party, the event outlined the many roles and responsibilities of Jacaranda candidates and their sponsors, the importance of community engagement, fundraising, and what to expect as they embark on their own unique Jacaranda journey.
“You will learn a lot about yourself, and you’ll also have a lot of fun,” the reigning Jacaranda Queen said encouragingly to a number of 2022 prospective candidates.
This year candidates will be able to choose their own title of King, Queen, or Ambassador.
2022 junior candidates will also be able to choose their own title of Prince, Princess or Ambassador.
Should he receive the honour of being crowned, 19-year-old Shawn Marsh said he will opt for the title of King.
As the first man to nominate in 2022, he praised the Jacaranda Festival Committee for making the event inclusive.
“It’s really good the event is gender neutral now, it’s great,” he said.
“I thought I’d give it a go and I’m really keen to get out there and work with people.
“Everyone who knows I’m nominating is really supportive, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Sponsored by the New School of Arts, Mr Marsh is a passionate youth worker within the Clarence Valley and sees the Jacaranda Festival as a positive way of becoming more involved with the community.
Another 2022 candidate, Amanda Fonti, said she decided to nominate after being inspired by previous and current Jacaranda Queens Ashton Blackadder and Hanna Craig.
Sponsored by her employer Anytime Fitness, the 26-year-old said making the event gender neutral was one of the best things to happen in Grafton.
“It was such exciting news and I’m really happy to be a part of the event this year,” she said.
Ms Fonti said she would like to be called Jacaranda Queen if she receives the honour of the title.
Speaking with the Clarence Valley Independent at the information evening, Amanda Daffey, 24, confirmed she is still unsure if she will nominate or not.
“I’m still thinking about it,” she said.
As an advocate for local youths with the New School of Arts, Ms Daffey said it was a massive and important change for the candidacy to open to all gender identities.
Should she nominate, and receive the title, Ms Daffey said she would like to be called an Ambassador.
Nominations for candidates aged between 18 and 30, and junior candidates aged between 12 and 14, close on March 25.
Anyone interested in nominating is welcome to contact the Jacaranda Festival Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page.