The biggest stories in 2017

Pleased: Local were excited to hear Ross Robinson and Adam Cryer had purchased Picton's George IV Inn. Picture: Chris Lane
Pleased: Local were excited to hear Ross Robinson and Adam Cryer had purchased Picton's George IV Inn. Picture: Chris Lane

The Macarthur region has produced some incredible stories this year, from the reopening of an old town favourite to cheeky vet students and shopping centre extravaganzas.

We’ve covered everything you could possibly think of and our readers have told us what they loved and what they didn’t.

So we’ve crunched the numbers and taken a look back at the year that was, to find the stories that made the biggest impact in the Macarthur community this year.

1. George IV Inn’s new owners

When Picton’s iconic George IV Inn was closed after the devastating storms in June 2016, the townsfolk were left without their favourite watering hole.

The historic venue was a centrepoint of the town and its closure broke many hearts.

With the pub on the market, there were fears it could wind up in the hands of developers and never serve another beer.

But all that fear was unwarranted when Ross Robinson and Adam Cryer signed on the dotted line. The Advertiser caught up with the new owners moments after they purchased the venue.

“We want to refurbish and restore the George to its former glory,” Mr Cryer said.

Mr Robinson said everyone wanted to see the pub up and running again.

“We want to keep the charm of the pub for the locals as well as making it a destination for the families to flock to and also a function venue for weddings and birthdays,” he said.

2. Camden vet students’ nude calendar

Another story to make a huge splash with Macarthur readers this year was our coverage of Sydney University veterinary students’ annual charity nude calendar.

We brought you the story of this year’s graduating student group stripping down to their birthday suits to raise money for Rural and Remote Mental Health in mid-October.

The fabulous pictures of the students – shot on farms in Camden, Cobbitty and Brownlow Hill – with sheep, pigs, horses and even dalmatians were a hit with the community.

Nude calendar committee member Courtney Turner said she was “stoked” with the success of the calendar – which sold 200 copies in a matter of days.

“We were definitely surprised at how well it’s done this year,” she said. “Triple J shared a video about the calendar and something like 400,000 people watched it. It’s made an impact and people are talking about mental health, which is what we wanted.”

You can still buy the calendar:

3. Anzac Day 2017

There is no event more popular with our readers each year than Anzac Day. Commemorations of the most sombre day on the Australian calendar are always one of the most well-read stories the Advertiser produces year on year.

And 2017 was no different, with thousands of locals flicking through all the pictures of Picton’s ceremony and march.

Locals stood shoulder to shoulder at Picton’s Memorial Park as Picton Anzac Day Committee chairman Ray Law welcomed everyone to the service with a poem recital.

“To our returned service personnel – those of you who have upheld the safety of this country and of her Allies at great cost to yourselves – today is about you and your service and we honour it,” Mr Law said. “Today we also pay homage to those who have paid the supreme sacrifice and have not been returned to their families.”

4. Julie and Hudson Bullock’s farewell

Mourners at the funeral of Julie and Hudson Bullock. Picture: Simon Bennett

Mourners at the funeral of Julie and Hudson Bullock. Picture: Simon Bennett

One of the most tragic incidents to strike Macarthur this year was the horrible loss of Julie Bullock and her son Hudson in a head-on car crash on the Hume Highway near Pheasants Nest in March.

The loss of two loving, respected members of the community was felt by all in Macarthur, but none moreso than Julie’s husband Darren and their daughter – Hudson’s twin – Sienna, who was also injured in the tragedy.

Almost 500 mourners paid their respects at the Bullocks’ funeral held at St John’s Anglican Church, Camden.

Mr Bullock delivered a heartbreaking eulogy.

“When Julie and I went on our first date she opened the door and gave me a kiss on the cheek and I knew I was in,” he said. “Our romance began and we have been inseparable ever since.

“At least five nights a week we would sit down at the dinner table and talk to our kids about their days. Hudson loved to talk. He would never shut up. Those dinner discussions will be truly missed. Hudson was a polite, caring, good little man and he shared a special bond with Julie.

“Hold each other tight and we will all cuddle again one day.”

5. IlluminARTe 2017

Light show: Picton's colourful main street at IlluminARTe. Picture: Ashleigh Tullis

Light show: Picton's colourful main street at IlluminARTe. Picture: Ashleigh Tullis

It kicked off with a bang in 2015 and the third iteration of Wollondilly’s innovative IlluminARTe Festival was another outstanding success.

The event, similar to popular Sydney affair VIVID, sees buildings, trees and more in Picton lit up with fantastic light displays.

The April Festival was attended by thousands of people from the shire and beyond.

Wollondilly mayor Judith Hannan said the festival was a fantastic event for the shire and a shining success.

“IlluminARTe shows just how much our community, towns and villages have to offer,” she said. 

“The event attracted thousands of tourists to Wollondilly and the collaboration and teamwork of volunteers, local businesses, community groups and sponsors have once again done our community proud.”

The Wollondilly Arts Group kicked off the festival with the opening of an art exhibition in the Wollondilly Shire Hall while a pop up exhibition featured artists who contributed to the building projections.

The day was also filled with entertainment on the main stage and in the RSL Memorial Park. Alfie Arcuri, Missy Lancaster, Jemma Beech and many more entertained parents and children throughout the day.

6. Winning Thirlmere garden

Beautiful: Kathy and Peter Robins in their award-winning garden. Picture: Chris Lane

Beautiful: Kathy and Peter Robins in their award-winning garden. Picture: Chris Lane

Wollondilly’s ever-popular garden competition was back again in 2017 and it didn’t fail to deliver a stunning grand champion yard.

Thirlmere’s Kathy and Peter Robins took top honours in October for their huge garden filled with ‘recycled junk’.

Mrs Robins described her garden as “cottage native”, but far from a traditional backyard.

“We have old cars, trucks and push bikes dotted around the garden,” she said.

“I like to collect what some people might call junk but I like to recycle and reuse it. 

“Even though I don’t always know how I will use the items when I pick them up, I know they will get used one day.

“There is bric-a-brac in the garden and you will find hidden gems in garden beds and up trees.”

7. Macarthur Square grand reopening

While the Christmas period might have made you swear you’d never visit a shopping centre again, back in March locals couldn’t get enough of Macarthur Square.

The region’s biggest mall opened its highly-anticipated extension on March 9, ushering in what the owners called the ‘next generation’ of Macarthur retail.

The opening included a new look David Jones – with model ambassador Jessica Gomes on hand to show the locals around – a tonne of eateries and a plethora of new specialty shops.

Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic spoke during the official opening proceedings, and said the commitment made by some of the countries biggest retailers – including H&M, Sephora and Mecca Maxima – was indicative of the important place Campbelltown has in Sydney.

“This development shows the confidence that has been invested in the Macarthur area,” he said. “This shopping centre is more like an experience, a community.”