|It was 27 years ago this weekend when the residents of Jeparit awoke to the news that the Community Pavilion at Sir Robert Menzies Park had been destroyed by fire, leaving the local and cricket, football and netball clubs and Agricultural and Pastoral Society without a home.
Fire investigators established that the fire began at around 2.40 am on the morning of Sunday 2 February and it took about 10 firefighters three hours to extinguish the fire, utilizing water from the adjacent Wimmera River.
The football club was well into the preparations to celebrate their centenary in June of that year, and although much of the club’s memorabilia was lost in the blaze, some was elsewhere being restored ready for the celebrations and were saved.
More immediate problems arose for the cricket club that still had two rounds remaining in their season and all of their equipment was stored in the building and destroyed
The rest of the West Wimmera Cricket Association rallied around the club and loaned or donated playing equipment allowing the Redbacks to fulfil their remaining engagements. Unfortunately the team did not win a game for the season so finals were not an issue.
At the end of the season an exhibition day/night cricket match between teams from the West Wimmera and Tatiara Associations was played at Davis Park in Nhill with the proceeds from admission and refreshments donated to the Jeparit Cricket Club to help purchase new equipment.
The football and netball clubs were playing in the Southern Mallee Football League at the time were able to request venue changes for the early rounds of their seasons as Sir Robert Menzies Park had no alternate change room facilities available
The first game utilizing the new pavilion was against Beulah on May 23, and the Centenary celebrations went ahead as planned two weeks late on June 6.
Following a plea from the Football Club President at the time, many historic photos and other memorabilia were donated to the club which are now proudly on display illustrating the club’s history.
The new Community Pavilion was officially opened on 18 July by Member for Lowan, Bill McGrath, in the presence of Shire President Ron Ismay, during a round where Jeparit hosted the Yaapeet club.
Since then these modern new facilities (above), which were built on the same site as the destroyed building, have witnessed a number of premierships to the local cricket, football and netball teams, is the venue for the A & P Society’s famous show day luncheon and the annual MOPOKE Christmas eve festivities.
Members of the community have also been brought together there for many memorable functions ranging from birthdays, wedding receptions and wakes over the last 27 years.
The pavilion remains one of the homes of the Jeparit-Rainbow Storm Football-Netball club, the West Wimmera Warriors B grade cricket team and the Jeparit A & P Society.
The building that was destroyed had served the local sporting clubs since 1964.
This incident was a repeat of history, as a number of the football club’s premiership trophies were lost when the local Hopetoun House Hotel was destroyed by fire in June 1937.