AUSTRALIA Day events around Wellington Shire were family-friendly affairs that recognised and celebrated the selfless community spirit of some of the municipality's outstanding citizens.
The shire sponsored more than 14 events, with the warm and sunny day providing the perfect setting for community gatherings, cooked breakfasts and award ceremonies.
After weeks of watching the bushfire tragedy unfold around many parts of the country, people embraced the opportunity to join together and celebrate the Australian way, with plenty of flag waving, lamington scoffing and sausage sizzling.
Australia Day celebrations at the LEAF in Sale Botanic Gardens included a citizenship ceremony, with almost 20 people from around the globe officially becoming Aussies.
Dozens of people relaxed under the shade of trees on a perfect summer day to watch the proceedings, which included flag-raising by Scouts and the singing of the national anthem.
Representatives from the three tiers of government spoke - Gippsland MHR Darren Chester, Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien and mayor Alan Hall - all with a focus on the current bushfire crisis, the work of volunteers and emergency services personnel and the heartening community responses.
Citizenship awardees were announced in December and recipients also took part in the day's proceedings.
Sale's Michael Page OAM is the 2020 Wellington Citizen of the Year for his volunteer work for many years.
Some his most recent involvements include the Monday Tucker Program which provides a weekly hot meal for those less fortunate; the Sale Music Festival; the Police Mentoring Program; the Engaging Youth Program; the SEED Community Garden initiative; and the Gippsland Veterans Welfare Centre.
Alex Nicholls of Munro is the Young Citizen of the Year for his contribution to his local farming communities battling the drought.
The 11-year-old organised a successful fundraising fun run for drought affected farmers and their families.
Sale City Band took the honours in the Group of the Year category, and fittingly, the band performed at Sale's Australia Day celebrations.
The Event of the Year category was won by Sale United Football Club for its Annual Primary Schools Twilight Tournament, which involves more than 500 primary aged children of all abilities learning to play soccer in a competition held over eight weeks.
In Briagolong, the citizen of the year award went to John Knowles, with the inaugural junior encouragement award presented to Chelsie Hanna.
Lions member Simone Jacob said the day was "lovely", and gave Briagolong residents an opportunity to fondly remember much-loved past club president Jessie Walker, who passed away last year.
She said new president Graeme Appleton stepped up and did a "great job" as master of ceremonies.
"We were fortunate to have a number of community members assisting with our breakfast today and it made the whole process so much easier," she said.
On a beautiful day, Australia Day was celebrated at Victoria Park, Maffra, with an enthusiastic crowd entertained by the Gippsland Woodwind Trio, Maffra Municipal Band and bush poet Don Dwyer.
After an address by Wellington Shire councillor Carmel Ripper, the Rotary Club of Maffra and Gippsland Times Community Group award was presented to Maffra and District Car Club's junior development coordinators Brendon Bye and Chris Clarke, who run driver training programs and car events, and provide an invaluable mentor service to the shire's young learning drivers.
The Individual Rotary Club of Maffra and Gippsland Times Quiet Achiever Award was awarded to Margaret Scott, who has contributed in many ways to the community, including giving 43 years to the Maffra Agricultural Society of which she is currently head steward.
She and husband David have been involved in the Royal Agricultural Society Sale Garden Club, where she is treasurer, and David president, for 40 years.
Still ever-active, Mrs Scott is also welfare officer with the Maffra Vigilance Society Thrift Shop and has been involved there for 12 years.
Rotary Club president Ted Mitchell said it was "a great day" that drew around 60 spectators and participants.
With the sun out and air finally smoke-free, the beach was the preferred option for many, with dozens of people enjoying the day at Seaspray.
It was a great success for the Seaspray Surf Life Saving Club, after three weeks of a fire-related tourism lull, with staff reporting that the bistro was "flat out" all day, as people enjoyed the ceremony on the lawn, live music and family entertainment.
Further east in Loch Sport, holiday makers and locals enjoyed a sausage sizzle and lamingtons at Lions Park, where congratulations were given to Lions Club Citizen of the year 2020 Rebecca Webb.