ALL it took was one trip to Canada for 2009 Sunflower Queen Louise Burridge to know she had made a friend for life.
When Louise won the holiday as her Sunflower Queen prize, her and mum Sue where both a little worried about staying with a family they had never met before.
But their worry soon turned to joy as they got to know the 2008 Altona Sunflower Queen Melissa Wiebe and her family.
In fact, after spending just a couple of weeks together over the past two years, Louise and Melissa have become such good friends they will be standing next to each other when Louise marries her long-time beau Andrew Gilhooley this Sunday.
“We just sort of clicked... it’s a pretty strong bond,” Louise said.
“She’s really excited to be coming.”
Sue said she was absolutely thrilled that Louise and Melissa had kept in contact since their first visit and that Louise didn’t think twice about making her a bridesmaid.
“The Sunflower Festival just gives so much to the girls who are involved,” Sue said.
“The girls would never have met if it wasn’t for the festival and it’s just been so lovely for them.”
Sue said her and Louise were “so lucky” to be paired with the Wiebe family and that she too had kept in contact with them.
“They just made us so at home when we were there,” she said.
Louise said entering the Sunflower Festival was an amazing experience and that she recommended anyone to take part.
“My main reason for entering was to raise much needed funds for the neighbourhood centre,” she said.
“It was just after the 2008 floods so a lot of families in town were in need of the support.”
Not only did Louise win Sunflower Queen, she also won the highest fundraiser in the Central Highlands.
“It was pretty awesome,” she said.
“I just want to say thankyou to everyone who has supported me through my journeys in Emerald,” Louise said.
With the big day starting at St Patrick’s church, Louise and Andrew will be joined by 100 guests who will help celebrate their union with a reception at Louise’s parents’ farm.
The 26-year-old said she had mixed emotions about the big day, but was really looking forward to spending some time with the family.
“I’m excited and a little bit nervous,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Louise and Andrew were engaged last May, with a proposal that Louise will remember for a lifetime.
“He used a remote control aeroplane with a sign attached to it saying, ‘Lou will you marry me’,” she said with a laugh.
“Of course I said yes.”
The Emerald-born BMA washplant operator said she and Andrew loved the country town and had no plans to leave anytime soon.
“It’s got everything you need and really nice people in town,” she said. “It’s a good place to grow up as a kid too.”
The couple haven’t decided on a honeymoon destination yet, but said they would be taking both Melissa and Andrew’s German groomsman Daniel to Agnes Water and the Great Barrier Reef after the wedding for some sight-seeing.
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