Mother of all Festivals, Pride of the Capital City, Premier of the South Pacific.

First Queen

Mr. Graham Low of the Bank of N.S.W. And Les Hammet of Cable and Wireless had entered her name then. Her Father was tickled pink with the idea, but her Mother didn’t think it was such a great idea, and made no bones about telling the two young men where they stood.

Consequently, the sewing of her two main dresses were late, as was Faga’s (her Mother’s) one.The Ball gown on the last evening’s judging had been sewn into her as she did not have time to put the zip in! She was so nervous that it would come apart and all would be revealed! The first night’s judging was in day clothes and her lemon coloured dress with the appliqued cherries was another rushed job. She had red shoes but no red purse, so her Father took her brown one down to the PWD and sprayed it red! The enamel paint was still tacky and she had thought how it would leave red fingertips all over everyone she shook hands with! The item was clutched to her side as she had a conversation with Viti Whiteside (they had married contestants then).

The Final Judging had taken place again in theSuvaTown Hall, the venue of many enjoyable Hockey dances. However, it was so packed and so hot, everyone stood in the hall from 8pm until the winner was announced some 3 hours later. For the girls, the strain of waiting backstage was unbearable. According to the article, Liebling stated that they quite often chewed the fat over those early Festival days! This was due to the fact that with no calculators, Mike Cassidy, Tony Wilkinson and other members of JC’s all counted and re-counted and then the announcement was finally made! Then the tears eventually followed when her name was announced! From there on, the evening went by in a daze. They all drove past the hospital so the patients could see them, then down to the Royal Suva Yacht Club for a dance.

She had only just turned 18 on the 11th of October that year, and had never been anywhere, let alone off on a trip toSydneyon her own. From the moment of touch-down till she left, it was wonderful, though somewhat daunting experience for a young  ‘kai-viti’. Two members of the JC’s who chaperoned her inSydneywere: Rod Craigie, a Judge then in Sydney and Alan Butt, then Sydney President of JC’s. Interviews were carried out in an only partly finished building, with rain pouring down out-side such as the Bob Dyer “Pick-a-Box” programme. On the promotional side, Lux Beauty Soap had asked if she would do a promotion for them and it was publicized in the Fiji Times  for several weeks.

The following year, 1957 was much better organised and culminated in a Ball at the Grand Pacific, in which formal attire, gloves and gowns were worn and they were not the least mindful of the heat!

Mr. Herb Marlow, of Air New Zealand and herself were involved with the organising of the next few Festivals, as well as Mr. Don Lane who was the Manager of the Fiji Visitors Bureau, and as the past-President of JC’s, he undertook the role of organising it into the Bureau. It grew strong, but in the last couple of years, it had lost steam, and in the year 1996, there were only 6 contestants. With a lot of discussions, after the 1996 Festival, lots of former Hibiscus Queens had promised to help organise and promote the Festival in years to come. Similarly,Suva’s Chamber of Commerce had also gotten into the act, and it was expected that the Festival would be back to its old sparkling self again.

In her last statement in the article, Mrs. Liebling Marlow stated that she still has a great pleasure in having people in some of the most faraway places say “Isa, Adi Senitoa”.