Thousands get explosive first glimpse of Wellcamp
A SEEMINGLY ambitious estimate of 10,000 visitors to Wellcamp Airport's first public open day has been blown sky-high along with half a million tonnes of stone.
An unbroken chain of cars filed into the construction site of Australia's first privately-built public airport from the moment the gates swung open.
It was a relentless procession, with more than 18,000 guests having wandered the sun-drenched work site at final count.
The family behind the vast project has heralded the day as a categorical success, not least the woman usually quietly operating behind the scenes, Mary Wagner.
She was in demand from dignitaries and the general public alike, all approaching with the same question on their lips: "Are you proud of what your boys have achieved?"
Between the demands of mingling and watching the spectacular blast of 500,000 tonnes of rock - the largest non-mining blast in Australia's history - the Wagner family matriarch negotiated a short interlude to answer that very question.
She recalled a time when she worked night shifts just to afford the tuition fees for her eight children's education.
"I would pick up my pay packet and take it straight to Downlands (College)," she said.
How times have changed.
The Wagner family is now ranked as Queensland's ninth richest entity, with an estimated net worth of $826 million.
The four sons, John, Neill, Joe and Denis, have driven the company to astonishing wealth since taking over the reins from father Henry Wagner.
"There is no way in the world that I would have thought we would one day build an airport," Mrs Wagner said.
"But I knew they would all be successful - they have a very good work ethic, just like their father.
"I'm delighted and so proud.
"This will be a marvellous asset to Toowoomba and the surrounding districts, and in 10 to 15 years' time I think it will be one of the leading airports in Queensland."
Wagners director Denis Wagner said today's turn-out was an encouraging sign that the investment was well-placed - an ever-present concern for such an immense undertaking.
"Being such an iconic project, I think people will look back in years to come and say they actually saw the airport being built," he said.
"It's great to see the public out here to show support."
The record-breaking rock blast provided a crowd-pleasing interval but also served a larger purpose, with about 10 million tonnes of stone to be used in the airport's construction.