THE Sunflower Festival street parade exploded with colour and excitement as it wound its way around Emerald streets on Saturday morning.
Parents waved to parade participants and kids squealed in excitement as they scurried to collect the lollies tossed from the floats.
"I think it went very well," Sunflower committee president Patti Schwarz said. "It went off without a hitch. The parade lived up to our expectations. There were plenty of floats and decorated bikes, lots of colour."
The Emerald Dance Centre won best float and the Emerald Pre-School and Community Kindergarten float came runner-up in a competition boasting many bright entries.
A cute addition to the parade was the children riding their decorated bikes, with two-year-old Mackenzie Burridge taking out first prize.
"The committee thanks all who took the time to put floats and decorated bikes in," Patti said. "I loved the Tongans singing. It was just terrific."
A first for the festival were the games at Pioneer Park which included a foot race and were popular.
"There was a huge crowd," she said.
"The Lions Club did sack races and egg and spoon races and the kids loved that.
"The whole day went really well."
Emerald gal dazzled to be crowned the queen
That was all Melanie McMaster could manage to say in the minutes after she was crowned Sunflower Queen.
"I'm still collecting myself," Melanie said immediately after.
"This next year will be amazing, I am really looking forward to it.
"It's something very different."
Melanie chose to raise funds for the AEIOU Foundation for Children with Autism and held a sausage sizzle, a raffle, a movie premiere and a trivia night.
"I raised just over $5000 and feel so honoured I got to do that," she said.
"They were very grateful, it goes to a great cause here in Emerald.
"I am just happy to raise that for them and contribute to the community."
Melanie was bestowed with the Sunflower crown and sceptre and was awarded $750, a sapphire ring and a trip to Canada.
"I feel so honoured to represent Emerald, having lived here all my life, it's a great opportunity," the new queen said.
"I've never been to Canada so I am very excited to experience the culture and see the different sights and their Sunflower festival."
Melanie's family was there at the crowning on Saturday to cheer her on and mum Shelley said it was "very exciting" to see Melanie named as Sunflower Queen.
"I think I was more nervous for her, I nearly fell over (when they announced Melanie had won)," Shelley said.
"It was so worthwhile and we had fun doing the fundraising with Melanie. We are so very proud of her."
The 2011 Sunflower Queen Amy Spannagle was there at the crowning on Saturday to give Melanie a few tips in what to expect as queen.
"Mel is going to have a blast," Amy said.
"It's a life experience on its own. It's so exciting to pass it on to someone new."
Surprised smile from Sunflower Princess
GEORGIA Staal is the Sunflower Princess for 2012.
The 16-year-old was crowned princess in the ceremony on Saturday, much to her surprise and delight.
Collecting herself to give an impromptu speech, Georgia thanked the Sunflower committee and the other entrants.
"It's such a great experience," she said. "I've made a lot of friends, it's been fantastic. Very memorable."
Runner-up 15-year-old Suzannah Ramsay congratulated Georgia on winning the title.
"Georgia did a good job, I am very proud," Suzannah said.
Sharing in the special moment together, Georgia was quick to add she was very surprised to have won.
"Either one of us could have won it, it was that close," Georgia said. "I feel very privileged."
A Central Highlands girl at heart, Georgia said she often watched the Easter parade while growing up.
The Marist College student was able to take part in the parade this year, decorating her own float.
Georgia, who plays netball in her spare time, had her friends from the sport on board the float to give her a hand in waving to the crowd.
Our friendly folk impress Canadian
THE friendliness of the people of the Central Highlands is just one of the many things Altona Sunflower Queen Rachel Sawatzky will remember from her trip Down Under.
The 19-year-old took part in the Sunflower Festival held in Emerald at the weekend and said she had met many friendly people.
"I am loving it, I love the weather," Rachel said.
"It's beautiful and great people. It's very community orientated much like Altona.
"Everyone is very friendly."
Rachel and her parents stayed with Amy and her family for the week.
The Canadian queen said the Spannagle family was very hospitable.
"We feel so welcomed and at home, very chilled and relaxed," the Canadian said.
The Central Highlands made a good impression on Rachel and her family and she said she would keep the memories forever.
During her stay, Rachel saw her first kangaroo, visited the Gemfields, the Springsure look-out, the Blackwater International Coal Centre, experienced what it would be like in a mine at Lennon Training and went horseback riding on the Spannagle property.
"I'd like to thank Amy and her family," Rachel said.
"We've had a lot of fun and good laughs.
"We have become great friends and hopefully we will keep in contact in the years to come."