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A walk in the park – NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian checked out the colourful Jacarandas in Market Square with Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, during the Premier’s visit to Grafton on Monday. Image: Lynne Mowbray.

Premier time to visit Jacaranda City

Emma Pritchard The beautiful purple streets of Grafton welcomed a special visitor on October 26 as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian spent time chatting with local business owners and community members during a scheduled visit to the Clarence Valley. Ms Berejiklian was in the Northern Rivers to visit fire-ravaged communities at Rappville and Nymboida, a year on from the devastating bushfires which claimed four lives and destroyed more than 120 properties. Upon arriving in Grafton, she was greeted by Jacaranda Festival Manager Mark Blackadder who presented her and her host, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, with jacaranda umbrellas which they proudly displayed. As she walked through Market Square and gazed up at the colourful blossoms, Ms Berejiklian said the flowering trees were a timely reminder that there is still a lot of beauty in the world, despite the hardships many people in the region have faced. After greeting several locals who took the opportunity to personally welcome Ms Berejiklian to their hometown, the Premier took a seat at popular Prince St eatery ‘I Scream’ and enjoyed a traditional scoop of Jacaranda ice cream as she spoke with business owner and Jacaranda Festival committee member Jeff Smith. Complimenting the delicious dessert with a “yummo” and satisfied smile, Ms Berejiklian and Mr Smith were joined by Mr Gulaptis, Mr Blackadder, Clarence Valley Councillor Richie Williamson, Giane Smajstr from Our Healthy Clarence, Skye Sear from New School of Arts, and Justin James and Carol Pachos from the Grafton Chamber of Commerce as they spoke freely about the local economy in the wake of Covid-19 and the unfortunate cancellation of the Jacaranda Festival. Mr Smith said the Premier had a keen interest in the goings-on of the local business community. “Her interest in Grafton had a lot of spark to it and she was very impressed by the number of tourists who have been coming to see our beautiful trees,” he said. “She asked how I Scream has been going and I was very pleased to say we’ve been doing very well. “We spoke about the stimulus package and how the local economy is fairing. “She was very interested in everything that’s been happening lately in Grafton too with the new gaol and of course, the jacaranda trees. “She had to have a Jacaranda ice cream during her visit, how could she not.” Grafton local Pam Doherty, was one of the lucky residents who was able to speak to Ms Berejiklian during her brief visit. Describing her as a “beautiful person,” Ms Doherty said she loved being able to meet the Premier and said her visit was a very special occasion for Grafton. Peter Buckler was another local who greeted Ms Berejiklian. “It was great to see her here and to be acknowledged,” he said. After she finished her Jacaranda ice cream, Ms Berejiklian continued her walk down Prince Street to greet local business owners and retail employees before heading to Nymboida for the second part of her visit.