RECORD CROWDS MARK ANZAC DAY
By Alex Easton
NORTHERN Rivers residents yesterday cemented Anzac Day??s position as one of our most important national days, with more than 20,000 people attending ceremonies across the region.
Organisers at each of the commemoration services expressed delight at the turnout, which peaked with a 7500-strong crowd at Lismore??s 9am service.
??You have no idea what a spectacle this is, this morning, to see so many people paying tribute to our war dead,?? Lismore R&SL president Bob Mowle told the crowd at the front of the Memorial Baths.
The story was repeated across the region, with organisers at many towns saying the service had attracted the biggest crowds they had seen.
The small town of Woodburn, after nearly missing out on its Anzac service after a dispute between the RSL, Richmond Valley Council and the Roads and Traffic Authority, ended up recording one of the region??s biggest turnouts, with up to 1500 people gathering at the Cenotaph by the Pacific Highway.
Ballina recorded the second-biggest crowd for its morning service, with about 4000 people being treated to fly-overs by an ex-RAAF training plane before and after the service.
Casino and Alstonville also each recorded big turnouts of about 1200 each.
Addressing the 500-strong crowd at Byron Bay, Byron High principal Barry Miller said his students had also shown great enthusiasm for Anzac Day.
Mr Miller said his own commitment to Anzac Day stemmed from his father??s experience as a prisoner of war during World War II.
When he asked them why they cared so much about it, he was told it was because the servicemen and women had fought for Australia??s freedom.
The answer, he said, reinforced his faith in the region??s youth.
The ceremonies stretched across the region, with even small communities managing fair gatherings: ?? About 700 people gathered for the Evans Head and Ballina dawn services; ?? 200 attended the Kyogle service; ?? 120 people made it to a dawn service at Bonalbo; ?? About 300 people attended the Mullumbimby morning service; ?? 250 people paid tribute to the Anzacs at Bangalow; and ?? About 100 people made it to an Anzac Day breakfast at Brunswick Heads.
Organisers across the nation also reported good turnouts, including a parade of 20,000 veterans in Sydney and a gathering of about 15,000 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. ?V WITH STAFF REPORTERS AND AAP