Ellen Jillings gave a big smile to the cameras when she was picked as the first Hastings Blossom Queen in 1953, and hasn't stopped smiling since.

The sprightly 80-year-old, Ellen (Ellen Lola Ethel Begley nee Jillings), said the first blossom festival was a massive event, done with pomp and significant ceremony.

"I was 14 when I was hand-picked by Sir James Wattie to be on the float, it was around the time I won a dancing championship in South Canterbury.

"I was the queen of my float.


"My father worked as head engineer for Wattie's and he was asked if