Family reunion as big as it gets
HOW do you keep a surprise reunion a secret from Elma Ward, the matriarch of the second largest family in Australia?
Firstly, try to keep your lies consistent.
"She rang me the day before the reunion and started asking me what I was up to, because a couple of us accidentally gave her conflicting stories about where we'd be," eldest son Owen Ward said.
"I thought the jig's up, she knows!"
Fortunately, the promise to visit an imaginary craft fair smoothed things over and the original plan was back in action.
Owen said that with nine children, 27 grandchildren, 65 great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren with more on the way, all of whom are spread out across Australia, it was quite a challenge to coordinate such a large reunion.
"My phone bill has definitely been hit hard, but it will be worth it in the end," he said.
"We're expecting a couple of hundred people to arrive."
Mum Elma, who has lived almost her entire life in the Clarence Valley, is described by her children as a tough woman.
"She had nine kids, no washing machine, no hot water and no inside toilet," daughter Beverley Ward said.
"She's a strong woman."
With Elma's granddaughter behind the wheel of her mint green Morris Minor, a subtle entrance for the matriarch was out of the question. Instead, the little 'Moggie' zoomed up the flood mound and came to a thrilling halt beside Calliope Hall with justifiable expletives coming from the front passenger side.
Elated by the efforts made to coordinate such a significant event, Elma said it was a fabulous opportunity for the family to strengthen their bond.
"I never had much time when they were kids to tell them I loved them because I was too busy cutting cane, baling hay, milking cows," she said.
"But today will be the perfect day to tell everyone how much I love them."