PURPLE POWER: Jacaranda spirit saves stranded tour group
BEING stuck in their tour bus just before midnight at McDonald's with no accommodation last Saturday night may not have been the introduction to the magic of the Jacaranda Festival 40 Japanese tourists were looking for.
Never doubt the spirit of the Jacaranda Festival, and how some teachers from Grafton Public School not only found them a place to sleep, but helped make their stay a positive experience.
School principal Michelle McDonagh said it was in a taxi where they first heard of the plight of the Japanese nationals, who lived in Melbourne and had been making a five-day trip to the festival.
"A group of staff were out at Carl Barron at the Saraton, and some stayed later and caught a taxi home just before 11.30pm," she said.
"And the taxi driver said 'I don't suppose you've got room to accommodate 40 stranded tourists sitting at McDonald's on the bus'."
The tourists already had a medical emergency coming from Sydney that put one of their party into hospital and had arrived too late to see the events on Saturday.
Unfortunately, when they also couldn't find their accommodation, they realised their mistake; they'd booked accommodation in Goulburn, not Grafton.
The teacher passed the taxi driver's message on to fellow teachers, and Ms McDonagh said she thought they could stay at the school.
"I called McDonald's and spoke to a cleaner who was the only one left in the office," Ms McDonagh said. "I told them to take my mobile and give it to the driver and tell them they could go to the school.
"They ended up calling, and myself and another staff member met them at midnight."
Although there was no bedding in the school hall, they gathered up bean bags, towels, blankets and laid it out for them.
"Some of them were in their 80s, but they were very appreciative, and we left them at 1am, and told them just to pull the door down when they left."
The next morning, when Ms McDonagh checked on the hall, the group had already left.
"It was neater in there than before they got there. They had folded everything and it was beautiful," Ms McDonagh laughed.
"They had gotten up at 6.30am to take photos in See Park."
Ms McDonagh passed the McDonald's again later in the afternoon and saw the tour bus, and decided to drop in to see how the tourists were.
"They were so positive. They were so excited that they'd been out to see the jacarandas and were going back to take more photos," Ms McDonagh said.
"They were the most positive people. I mean some of those people were in their 80s and they laid on the floor and there was no complaining."
As a bonus, the group donated $300 to the school for helping them out of their situation.
"We told them that if they came back next year, we'd put on a special performance for them," Ms McDonagh said.
"They ended up finding accommodation in Moree for the next night to do the hot springs. It wasn't part of their plans, but they just turned the whole experience into a positive. No complaining, it was amazing."