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A memorable event . . . A photo of the 1919 Oamaru peace parade from the JM Brown collection. PHOTO: WAITAKI DISTRICT ARCHIVE/105019

On July 19, 1919, the Oamaru community celebrated peace.

The Forrester Gallery is celebrating the centenary of the 1919 Oamaru peace parade and recapturing its spirit by lining the main street with peace flags and holding a holiday programme all about peace.

The end of World War 1 is generally recognised as being Armistice Day on November 11, 1918.

But the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until June 28, 1919, and many communities waited for their soldiers to return home and the Spanish Flu epidemic to recede before celebrating.

The Oamaru Mail (21.07.1919) described the local peace parade as “a memorable event”.

Flags were placed on poles at every alternate tree in Thames St, from Ribble St south, and buildings along the main street were “decked for the occasion”. The Oamaru Railway Station was also brightly adorned with red, white and blue ribbons.

“The combined effect of the street and shop decorations was distinctly fine, and credit is due both to the Decorations Committee and to the people of the town for the loyal and wholesome way in which their appeal was seconded, even private residences showing their patriotic enthusiasm,” the Oamaru Mail reads.

People of all ages turned out to participate in the procession and other events.

“The great two-chain-wide street was thronged by a surging, but exceedingly well-conducted crowd.

“The whole community combined to make the celebration of peace worth of the greatest event in the history of the world and the result was a pronounced success.”

Forrester Gallery, North Otago Museum and Waitaki District Archives director Jane Macknight said she had always loved the photographs of the Oamaru peace parade.

“We thought about ways to share these images with the public, and came up with the idea for the street flags,” Ms Macknight said.

“We have created colourful flags invoking the rainbow metaphor and diverse symbols of peace, together with images from the 1919 peace parades.

“People look so joyful and went to so much effort to create their costumes and floats.

“We are lucky to have these images in the Waitaki District Archive as part of the JM Brown collection. Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the flags would be a nice “injection of colour into the winter days of Oamaru”.

Celebrating peace . . . Forrester Gallery, North Otago Museum and Waitaki District Archives director Jane Macknight holds samples of the peace flags. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

The peace flags will be on display for the centenary and throughout August.

Culture Waitaki is also holding a holiday programme about peace at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church Hall, from 11am to 3pm from July 15-18. North Otago Museum curator Chloe Searle will talk about different aspects of peace and put on different activities each day.