Verna's back for a break, with a few family and friends 

A family from Stawell cannot get enough of Warrnambool after clocking up their 37th year on the same site at the Shipwreck Bay Holiday Park.

Verna Pickford, 84, referred to jokingly as the park’s matriarch by her family and friends, has been coming to the area since the late 1940s. She spent time at other camping grounds before reserving the same site at Surfside 2, now known as Shipwreck Bay, for the past 37 years.

“There was none of this here at all,” explained Mrs Pickford.

“We just camped in the dunes ... and had a couple of piles of hessian bags as our toilet facilities while we camped in tents.”

Over the years the group staying at the site has expanded to four generations, with Verna’s three daughters — Deb Slorach, 52, Faye Connell, 63, and Trish Ralph, 54 — bringing along their growing families. 

However, the tribe includes more than just blood relatives now. It extends to the many friends that they have made, including Dorothy Wright, 76, from Bendigo, who has been on the adjacent site for the past 45 years. 

Mrs Wright has her own four generations who come each year as well, strengthening the ties between the families. They have attended each others’ birthdays and weddings throughout the years. 

“We’re slowly but surely taking over the joint,” joked Mrs Slorach, who explained that as a group they occupied 14 sites and stayed from two to three weeks each. “It’s like a family reunion (with) our holiday adoptees,” Mrs Pickford said.

And the tradition shows no sign of ending soon. They have already lodged their forms to reserve the same sites for next summer — plus a request for some more for the growing “family”.

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