2021 in review: local stories that made our year
From Astra to Zenaca, housing to high school logos, we look back on 121 stories that made waves in the Murraylands during the past 12 months.
You started with such promise, as Australia’s first dose of the AstraZenaca vaccine was administered at the Murray Bridge hospital; and you’ve ended on a down note, with the first local outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Still, there are plenty of other events, issues and developments we’ll remember when we look back on 2021.
Housing was a big one, as hundreds of people struggled to find somewhere to live locally.
But here you’ll find positive stories about people and their passions, too: Elise Marx and her Antarctic dream, Jared Bettio and his search for the perfect olive oil, a former drug user’s journey back from addiction.
Click any of the red links if you’d like to read the full story, and be sure to become a paying subscriber if you’d like to read more exclusives from your local, independent news service in future.
How will you remember 2021?
1 – Up to 10,000 people welcome the new year with a fireworks show on Murray Bridge’s riverfront, one of the few in South Australia to go ahead.
14 – Mary-Lou Corcoran takes Murray Bridge News on a tour of the Bridgeport Hotel construction site, and shows off the view from the top floor.
21 – Dozens of families express their frustration with a near-total shortage of rental housing in Murray Bridge, and a lack of feedback from real estate agents.
26 – Multicultural network chair John Scarvelis is named Murray Bridge’s citizen of the year on Australia Day. Historian Angie Tomkinson is named Tailem Bend’s citizen of the year. Rotarian and Housing SA executive Wendy Gaborit is awarded an OAM for her contribution to the community.
28 – Shane Hoare introduces us to the sentinel chickens who help keep Murray Bridge safe from mosquito-borne disease.
29 – Murray Bridge’s new regional rowing centre opens.
6 – A story in The Weekend Australian describes Murray Bridge as the “meth capital of Australia”; local poet Claire Watson responds a few days later.
15 – The state government turns down Sam Shahin’s offer to establish a COVID-19 quarantine facility at the Bend Motorsport Park.
16 – Bridge Clinic Doctor Elise Marx opens up about her dream of practising medicine in Artarctica.
17 – Foodbank SA’s food hub, which feeds more than 120 local families every week, officially opens on Adelaide Road.
18 – Facebook temporarily blocks most Australian news outlets from posting on its platform ... but not, for some reason, Murray Bridge News.
22 – After 86 years, radio station 5MU announces a plan to switch off its traditional frequency – 1125AM – and move to 96.3FM.
23 – Work begins on a new, $16.5 million visitor centre at Monarto Safari Park.
25 – East side resident Jerry Wilson campaigns against a council plan to inspect septic tanks.
27 – Murray Bridge’s first Magic Millions becomes the richest horse race ever run in country South Australia.
5 – Caroline Phegan becomes the first Australian to be immunised against COVID-19 with the AstraZeneca vaccine, three weeks after it was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, at the Murray Bridge hospital.
6 – Mypolonga wins the Murray Towns Cricket Association’s A grade premiership, beating Monarto by nine wickets.
9 – Councillors beg the state and federal governments to intervene to help with a lack of rental properties and affordable housing in Murray Bridge.
11 – The Country Fire Service’s new region three headquarters officially open on Murray Bridge’s east side.
14 – Hundreds attend the Murraylands Multicultural Yuntu-Walun Festival.
15 – An escaped bull causes havoc as it runs across the old Murray Bridge and up to the showground in mid-morning traffic.
17 – A developer applies to build an X Convenience service station on the corner of Owl Drive, Murray Bridge.
18 – Peter Dalwood brings back his River Murray footy column, Boots and All, after a five-year absence from the local newspaper.
19 – Murray Bridge High School’s formal is held at the town hall.
25 – The Ability Cafe, which centres people living with disability, opens on Seventh Street; sadly, it would close before the year’s end.
26 – Unity College’s formal is held at Murray Bridge Town Hall.
1 – Spoof stories about OTR planning four new service stations and TV show The Block shooting at an abandoned mill confuse locals on April Fools’ Day. In actual news, Owl Drive residents band together to improve their neighbourhood’s reputation.
6 – Murray Bridge High School unveils its new logo and motto: “palai namawi – the future is ours”.
12 – Scammers con the Tailem Bend Netball Club out of more than $150,000; the club would launch a crowdfunding campaign to try and cover the loss, and would eventually succeed in getting some big donations and loans. Wildens Way shack owners petition the Murray Bridge council for a chance to keep the exclusive rights to their riverfront properties; community advocates would file a counter-petition the next month.
19 – Players from Murray Bridge Lawn Tennis Association despair after their courts are destroyed by corellas.
20 – World-famous actor David Gulpilil makes an appearance at the premiere of the biographical film My Name is Gulpilil at Murray Bridge’s Cameo Cinema.
23 – A Murray Bridge man is arrested for stealing a Big Bird costume from a circus in Adelaide.
25 – On Anzac Day, Borneo veteran John Meers is awarded life membership of Murray Bridge RSL.
29 – The Murray Bridge Business Alliance announces plans to re-form.
5 – The History Trust of SA and local council unveil a revitalisation of Murray Bridge’s Round House which brings its history to life. Young survivor Ebony von Rochow leads a riverfront vigil in memory of women killed as a result of domestic violence during 2020.
7 – Murray Bridge Players and Singers’ production of Mamma Mia opens, beginning a run of sold-out performances.
11 – The federal government reveals that it may answer calls to duplicate the Swanport Bridge.
17 – The first Country by the River festival, promising a top-notch lineup headlined by Lee Kernaghan, is announced. Construction of Thomas Foods International’s new Murray Bridge meat works begins.
21 – An entrepreneurial hub opens at Murray Bridge High School.
22 – The Bend Motorsport Park hosts a pedal prix race for the first time.
2 – Murray Bridge News becomes one of 12 newsrooms around the world to win a year’s funding from US-based web platform Substack.
8 – Meals on Wheels’ Murray Bridge branch celebrates its 50th birthday a year late thanks to COVID.
12 – Two houses at Sunnyside are destroyed in a fire.
17 – Paul Prosser’s passion for car collecting gives Mypolonga a new tourist attraction.
21 – Community members rally around a Murray Bridge family as young Nicholas Fiegert fights a rare and aggressive cancer.
23 – Actor Jamie Dornan comes to Murray Bridge to shoot TV series The Tourist. Kelly Johnson suggests establishing a foodie trail through Mypolonga, and a retail outlet in the heart of the town, to promote the area’s produce.
27 – A group of singers and dancers from Vanuatu steal the show at Murray Bridge’s All Culture Fest.
2 – Premier Steven Marshall officially opens Murray Bridge’s new Bridgeport Hotel.
5 – The Adelaide Road linear park is finished after five years.
8 – The old Murray Bridge was at risk of being closed to traffic within 10 years, Transport Minister Corey Wingard says as the state government budgets $36 million to fix it.
11 – The Callington Recreation Community Centre opens.
13 – The Shell service station at Tailem Bend is listed as a possible COVID-19 exposure site – the first in the Murraylands – after a visit from a removalist crew from Sydney. More than 200 people would end up in quarantine as a result.
22 – Four years after the Rio Olympics, Newell Composites’ Robert August reveals the story of how the cauldron used at the games’ opening ceremony was made in Murray Bridge.
31 – Wellington-based trainer Michael Hickmott becomes Murray Bridge Racing Club’s first metropolitan premiership winner.
2 – An artwork will be painted on Murray Bridge’s silos, the local council and federal MP Tony Pasin announce.
3 – A shortage of housing is the number-one social issue in Murray Bridge, community agencies and service providers say.
11 – The Murray Bridge pedal prix is cancelled due to COVID-19 for the second year running.
12 – The Studio Purpose project is completed with the opening of four purpose-built units for young people at risk of homelessness in Murray Bridge. Murray Bridge High School reveals the uniforms its students will be able to wear from 2022.
25 – Former River City FM volunteer Ben Hedger outlines his plans for Murray Bridge’s third FM radio station; unfortunately for him, the licence would soon be snapped up by Vision Christian Radio.
4 – A woman dies in an accident at a four-wheel-drive park near Callington.
5 – Big River Pork staff are forced into quarantine after getting a visit from a COVID-positive truck driver.
6 – Ghost hunters from Murraylands Active Paranormal take Murray Bridge News on an expedition to a cemetery.
10 – Golf club greens keeper Hayden Rosenberg is named trainee of the year at MTE SA’s annual awards night.
13 – The Murray Bridge council announces plans to build a riverfront swimming pool at Sturt Reserve.
16 – Businessman Adam Bruce wins the right to build his Bridge Watersport Park after a court battle.
20 – The late Marshall Carter is among the Ngarrindjeri community leaders honoured at the 2021 NAIDOC Week awards.
25 – Almost 4000 people attend the Murray Bridge Show in its return after a COVID-interrupted 2020.
27 – Major employers, local authorities and real estate industry figures hold an emergency meeting as they grapple with a lack of housing for workers.
29 – Rain buffets the Murraylands and washes out a section of Mannum Road.
8 – The federal government commits $1.9 million to a new indoor sports stadium for Murray Bridge.
9 – Unity College’s inaugural class of year 12 students reunites for the first time since their graduation in 2001.
10 – Hayley Hunt and Charlotte Patterson are named among the winners at the 2021 Rotary Youth Art Prize.
12 – Members of the association which owns the Riverglades wetland vote to sell it to the Murray Bridge council so it can become a public park.
17 – Mechanic Dave Foster shares his story of learning to drag race from one of SA’s greats.
20 – Members of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra perform at Tailem Bend.
27 – Mypolonga puts on a show for visiting judges from SA’s ag town of the year awards, boosting community pride in a big way.
31 – Peter Coombe makes a guest appearance at the 2021 Callington Show.
3 – Health authorities hold a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Murray Bridge High School.
4 – Pria Martin publishes the first edition of a new community newsletter for Mypolonga, later to be named Mypolonga Buzz.
5 – Murray Bridge High School principal Ruth Mussger is named the best in the state at the SA Public Education Awards.
20 – Floats circle Sturt Reserve for Murray Bridge’s Christmas pageant.
24 – Helen Phillips’ tropical oasis at Mypolonga earns her a gong at Murray Bridge’s spring garden awards. Four local athletes and a long-serving volunteer are celebrated at the city’s inaugural sports awards.
28 – Work begins a long-awaited refurbishment of the Murray Bridge Club.
29 – Actor David Gulpilil dies in Murray Bridge after a long illness.
30 – Students get a look inside Murray Bridge High School’s new, $20 million Sturt Building for the first time.
4 – A community day for African migrants is held in Murray Bridge, one Jean-Marie Uwihoreye hopes will be the start of something bigger.
10 – As a double cohort of year six and seven students prepares to start high school, long-serving Mypolonga Primary School principal Rita O’Brien retires.
11 – Father Christmas visits Tailem Bend for the town’s 2021 pageant.
13 – Maurice Road residents petition the Murray Bridge council for help with constant truck traffic.
20 – The winners of Murray Bridge’s annual Christmas light awards are announced.
22 – A Murray Bridge pensioner shares her story of becoming homeless as the result of the housing crisis.
23 – SA Health urges people not to worry as several Murray Bridge workplaces shut down in response to COVID-19 exposures, none of which is listed publicly.
24 – The Coorong district records its first COVID-19 case of the pandemic; Murray Bridge would get four on Christmas Day as an outbreak of the virus’ omicron strain began.
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