Bumper crowds were reported across Central Otago on Anzac Day despite celebrations being pared back from those pre-pandemic.
Between 700 and 800 people gathered in both Alexandra and Cromwell as some towns opted to dispense with traditional dawn services in favour of ceremonies later, as Anzac Day made a tentative return across the district on Monday.
In Clyde, about 500 people attended a wreath-laying service at the the Clyde memorial from 8am, which was followed by a similar service at the Alexandra Memorial at 9.30am.
Alexandra-Clyde Returned and Services Association (RSA) representative Paul Galloway said “stunning Central Otago weather” coupled with the two-year absence of services had combined to produce the bumper crowds.
“It’s been a long time between drinks and I think that was reflected in the turnout.”
He was also thrilled with the Central Otago response to the annual Poppy Day appeal on Friday.
“The support of the community was very strong this year.”
In Cromwell, Fr Martin Flannery of the Catholic Church of the Irish Martyrs closed the service at the cenotaph outside the Cromwell Memorial Hall with a prayer for Ukraine in tacit acknowledgement that conflicts, regardless of the sacrifice made by previous generations, still occurred.
Earlier, Dennis Ryan of the Cromwell RSA told the crowd the ceremony would be the last at the hall’s grounds before the bulldozers moved in to pull it down.
Built in 1959 and deemed by many as no longer fit for purpose, the hall will be replaced by a new memorial hall and events centre set to cost $16million.
The service at the hall followed one at the returned services graves at the Cromwell Cemetery.
While services differed from the traditional, not all towns did away with dawn services with large crowds reported at the Ranfurly Cenotaph at 6.30am.
Maniototo commemorations continued at the Kyeburn Cenotaph at 10.30am.
A service at the Omakau Memorial Hall at 10am attracted about 200 people.
In the Teviot Valley, services at the Millers Flat Cenotaph at 7.30am and the Roxburgh Cenotaph at 9am were also well attended.