There is a community of campers who every year trek to Montagu.
The heart and soul of this community is caretaker Roy ‘Buster’ Hardy and wife Bev.
Always there to greet new and old friends at the gate, Buster has been on the scene for almost a decade.
He remembers the day the opportunity came calling.
“I was a bit lost when I retired,” he says.
Then the caretaker position came up in the classifieds, and Buster decided ‘why not?’ he applied on the spot.
“When I started I said I’d like to do it until I’m 80.”
Bev chimes in proudly: “He turns 80 in August – he’s done it!”
Starting the season in November, Buster packs up the caravan and his tools and heads west.
Mowing and maintenance are first on his list of things to do before the hustle and bustle of new campers arrives.
By the November long weekend the place is alive.
He has a yarn with visitors as he shows the way to their campsite, some set up and stay for weeks while others stop by just the night.
“We had over 300 people in there at one time,” he recalls.
“I counted 36 dogs and 112 kids. And my biggest day we went through 48 toilet rolls!”
Between December 25 and January 1 is always busiest.
“Boxing Day was huge, they’d all roll in. I’d have seven or eight caravans lining up at a time,” he says.
“I had to be on the ball.”
Throughout their time at the park, the pair have made it their mission to make the holiday spot special for all.
The holidays are always filled with magic as youngsters awake on December 25 or Easter Sunday, a surprise always awaits.
At their own expense, Bev and Buster would stock up on sweet treats for a lolly scramble while families would be gifted with a jar of nuts and bolts from Bev for Christmas. And Easter Bunny always made an appearance.
On Australia Day, the true blue spirit of the community truly shines as campers gather for a day of frivolity and old fashioned fun, like egg and spoon races and sack races.
“We’ve made a lot of really good friends,” says Bev.
“It’s nice to bring people together. Everyone enjoys the social side of it, getting together.”
Through this fun a bond of true friendship formed and when Buster had a small stroke a few years ago, campers were the first to jump in to help.
This sense of giving has flowed further in the donating to fundraisers for Emmerton Park every year.
From raffles and sausage sizzles to garage sales and progressive dinners, campers at Montagu have raised some $12,000 in seven years for the Smithton aged care facility. This has funded wheelchairs, televisions, tables, chairs and purpose-built beds amongst other necessities over the years.
In the last season alone, $1610 was raised from two fundraisers.
As the season came to an end in April, campers came together to farewell Buster and Bev and present Buster with a clock inscribed with the words ‘Most Loved Caretaker’.
This clock sits in his lounge room at home, a treasured memento of many years of memories.
Roy ‘Buster’ Hardy and wife Bev farewelled friends at Montagu after seven years as campground caretakers. Picture: Ashleigh Force.