20 Years of Fashions at Central Park with Joan

Date: 31st March 2023

Since 2003, Ladies Day has played a prominent role at the Stawell Gift carnival, including the always glamorous outdoor fashion parade, held on Easter Saturday after the 120m women’s and men’s heats. For 20 years Joan MacPherson has been organising the popular fashion show which has attracted big crowds to watch a mix of athletes and fashionistas strut their stuff in the gardens at Central Park.

Joan studied dressmaking in Geelong before marrying Murray MacPherson and moving to Glenorchy. Murray’s background in athletics led to Joan’s responsibility for making the runners’ coloured silks so beloved of pro runners. “Our two girls did calisthenics which led to the making of many costumes. This kept me busy along with helping Murray on the farm, gardening and playing golf, bowls and tennis. I have made the Gift runners’ silks for over 20 years.”

In 2003 Joan assisted the Stawell Athletic Club executive officer, Amanda Western, for the first Fashions on the Field. “Sponsored by Driscoll, McIlree & Dickinson (local stock, station and real estate agents), the event was held just inside the main gates, and it proved to be very popular, with the ladies and athletes all very eager to dress up and take part. The following year I somehow ended up with the job of running the show, held that year in the rose garden,” Joan explained.

As the event got bigger the Main Street shops got involved to ensure the fashion parade became a successful feature event at the Easter carnival, with local wineries taking part and often providing spectators with free champagne.  Following the 800 metres final the fashions winners are presented on the main oval in front of the crowds.

Throughout the years, Joan recalls several highlights that stand out. “The fashion show has always been popular with the runners. In 2004 Tanya Fry was unsure if she could compete in the 400 metres and get over to the Fashions on the Field in time to enter. I assured her that we would wait, so after her race she pulled her dress out of her running bag, changed and headed across the oval putting on her shoes and hat as she went, much to the amusement of the athletes. She arrived quite calm with nothing out of place – and won!

“In 2007 the popular runner Billie Jo Petersen won Fashions, but sadly died a few years later. Now the winner receives the Billie Jo Petersen Memorial Sash.

“In 2012 Olympic athlete Melissa Breen not only won the $1000 Fashions on the Field prize but also won the Strickland Family Women’s Gift from the scratch mark.

“In the men’s section Edward Ware was the winner of Best Dressed Gent two years before he won the 2021 Stawell Gift.

Joan remembers another former Stawell Gift winner to be involved, Chris Perry who acted as a judge. “He wasn’t too sure what he was doing and felt that it was more of a challenge than winning the Gift, but with some help from his co-judges all went well.” 

Other celebrity judges include Channel 7’s Jane Bunn, while last year 2015 Miss World Australia Tess Alexander acted as compare.

“Renamed this year, Fashions at Central Park is not the only activity taking place off the track. Over the years children have been entertained on Easter Sunday with the animal nursery, face painting, Kelly Sports and the MattyB Clinic, and the now famous Easter egg hunt which ensures a great family atmosphere.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my 20-year involvement, and I wish to thank all the sponsors and the competitors for their assistance and cooperation. The fashion show, along with all the other added attractions, help build some fun and atmosphere to contribute to this world class event.”

Sign up online to enter the 2023 Fashions at Central Park which starts at 3.30pm on Easter Saturday April 8.  https://www.stawellgift.com/off-the-track/fashions-on-the-field-2/ 


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