In the months following the end of the first world war, Nuriootpa community members had talked of creating a fitting memorial to those who had given their lives during the war. Following a number of community meetings in early 1919, it was decided to build a new institute as a war memorial, and to begin raising funds, the town would hold ‘Nuriootpa Day.’
A committee was formed, headed by W Appelt, and months of preparations began. The day, planned for Saturday November 8 that year, would involve a procession, a queen competition, and a carnival. The Tanunda Choral Society would end the festivities with an evening concert.
Four young girls were selected as queens and each represented a different theme, with Gwen Kretschmer as queen of sport, Ethel Appelt as queen of children, Edna Sleader as queen of flowers and Stella Scholz as queen of willows. Events were held in their honour leading up to Nuriootpa Day, to gather votes for the girls and raise funds for the new hall. In the weeks leading up to November 8, the Leader provided running tallies of each girls’ votes.
The Leader also reports that a special locally designed button, with an illustration of the bridge and southside of the town, was produced to mark the day.
Nuriootpa Day dawned bright and warm. The procession began at the post office around 1pm, led by local police constable WP Dermody and followed by the Nuriootpa Town Band. The little queens came next in vehicles decorated according to their theme. Comic vehicles, decorated by community members, brought up the rear. The parade finished at the recreation park, where the carnival was set up with stalls, sideshows and activities, including snake charmer, Mr Brandenberg.
Queen of sports, Gwen Kretschmer, was crowned winner of the queen competition at the evening concert, while the Queen of flowers was awarded best decorated car. The Tanunda Choral Society, led by then entertained the local community into the night, ably assisted by a number of local performers. The 1919 Nuriootpa Day raised over £500. This event was continued over ensuing years to continue raising money for the memorial.
Following several years of fundraising and subsequent construction, the Nuriootpa Soldiers’ Memorial Hall was officially opened on June 7 1925. The final hall construction and fit out cost £7000. William Coulthard donated a block of land for the new institute to be built, which adjoined the present hall.
The community support and spirit for this project was reflected on and engage in later years, particularly during World War 2. The Nuriootpa War Memorial Community Association, established in 1944, planned a community centre as a living memorial to those who served during World War 2. The centre would include amenities such as a swimming pool, a kindergarten and baby health centre, a youth club and a housing subdivision.