Words and photography by Grace Cobb.
Twenty years ago, when 70 women gathered in a tin shed in the Queensland town of Weengallon, they could never have known what they had started.
LEFT TO RIGHT: WPLD President Emma Montgomery, Kellie Mitchell, hostess-with-the-mostess Sally Rigney and Georgina Donelan.
That first event was a fundraiser to buy cleaning products for their local kindy – tickets were $10 and nobody RSVP’d. It’s safe to say things have changed over the years.
This year, the Weengallon Pink Ladies Day, drew 750 women to the tiny dot-on-the-map-town, that can be found between St George and Goondiwindi.
It was an incredible sight; the endless red dirt and vivid blue sky punctuated by a sea of women dressed in pink.
Best accessories winners Elaine Lennon, Paulina Allen with Kay Sevil; entry into Weengallon Pink Ladies Day; Deb Frecklington with Nicola Grummitt from Grevillea Law; a beautifully decorated day.
Leader of the LNP, Deb Frecklington could be seen waving from behind the bar, where she was busy serving a throng of Pink Ladies an assortment of rose-tinted beverages.
One of the most recognisable voices of the bush, Sally Nicol-Rigney could be heard welcoming guests, she is the long-time, beloved MC for the day.
There was plenty of shopping to be done; 40 market stalls lined the outskirts of the marquee, overflowing into the hall and out the other side. Inky and Moss from Roma, Wattle and Twine from Dalby, Dust N Boots from Warialda, and The Diamond Hunter from Goondiwindi just to name a few.
Amy Ballinger from Wattle and Twine wearing Melenco Designs; Chrystal Henry and Jodie Tweedy from Love Henry.
The Diamond Hunter, Christina Duddy donated a pink morganite and diamond ring to be raffled on the day, nothing ruffles the feathers of a few hundred women like a beautiful piece of jewelry. Local lass, Leah Turkington from Talwood taking home the coveted prize.
Weengallon Pink Ladies Day isn’t all champagne and shopping, it is also a major fundraiser. Directing hundreds of thousands of dollars to breast cancer services in the local area.
Incredibly, fundraising from the Weengallon Pink Ladies Day has seen the employment of vital Breast Cancer Nurses in both St George and Goondiwindi. Funds from the day have also enabled the BPCAQ (Breast and Prostate Cancer Association of Queensland) to give targeted grants of up to $2000 to local patients. There is also the Weengallon Pink Ladies Day room at the Olive McMahon Lodge in Toowoomba that provides free accommodation for cancer patients and their carers.
Jean Prow and Bec Ryan who made the trip from Dalby; Wendy Schmalkuche and Sarah Crothers.
Each Pink Ladies Day features a Rabobank guest speaker, in years past they have shared stories of fighting and winning against breast cancer. This year’s guest speaker Leanne Murphy, shared an entirely different, poignant and heartbreakingly honest story.
What if you knew you couldn’t win?
Leanne, a 53 -years-young cattle producer, is currently undergoing cancer treatment at St Andrews Hospital. Leanne was first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which she has now lived with for three years. Leanne now also has secondary cancer in her bowel and bone Mets.
Kym Campbell, inspiring guest speaker Leanne Murphy and Julie Tonscheck.
Leanne was taken aback by her diagnosis, especially given her biannual mammograms and colonoscopies. Leanne shared her rollercoaster of emotions, wading through medical terms, testing and treatment. Then making it to and past her daughter’s wedding. Despite knowing the prognosis isn’t good, Leanne says she has never asked her oncologist her life expectancy. “I’m not dying from metastatic cancer, I’m living with it,” Leanne said.
Local artist Ashleigh MvNaulty with her artwork she donated to the festivities.
More than $10,000 was raised in the BW Rural Art Auction, breaking records. “I think the corresponding success of Weengallon is because we’ve always had one goal; to have a good time while doing something good for a worthwhile cause,” says Sally Nicol-Rigney.
After 20 years, there have been rumours abound that 2019 is the final Weengallon Pink Ladies Day.
“You have to realise there are ladies on this Committee who started off with babies on their hips and now those babies are having babies. 20 years is quite a long time,” Sally jokingly pointed out.
President Emma Montgomery confirmed that it will be the last event as we know it. However, the committee has been approached by a third party interested in taking over the event.
Lydia Woods and Sarah Turner from Country Peonies Millinery; Liberal MP Deb Frecklington and Ian Rigney behind the bar; Committee member Tiz Mulkey.
The committee went all out to make 20 years a celebration to remember. “We wanted to really celebrate our day in the red dirt country that has brought such joy, inspiration and support to so many,” Emma said.
“If this is the end then it’s o.k. Because we’ve had one hell of a wild, wonderful, robust ride,” Sally added.
“We’ve proven we are the little community that could. 20 years of luscious lunch and laughter with good friends, great food and even better shopping.”
The magic of Weengallon’s Pink Ladies Day is the balance of the light and the dark; bringing the important subject of breast cancer to the forefront of our minds, and raising essential funds all while being a hell of a lot of fun.