Hockeyroo Mariah Williams said she comes home to visit family and friends in Parkes at least once every year.
But when the 2016 Rio Olympian set foot in Parkes on Friday, she and everyone else knew this visit was unlike any other.
With a packed schedule over two days, Mariah was given a welcome much like a rock star as she visited local schools Parkes High School, Middleton Public School and Holy Family Primary School, and attended a civic reception, hosted by Parkes Shire Council, with community members that night.
On Saturday, a meet and greet was held where Mariah posed for photos and signed autographs.
With a guest list close to 60, the civic reception saw Mariah’s family, council staff and new councillors and a large contingent of Parkes’ hockey fraternity present.
Cr Ken Keith welcomed those who attended and praised the big turnout of members from the Parkes Hockey Association.
Cr Keith said he recalled Mariah’s talent as a junior player in Parkes.
“I remember she was a good, little player with a big future,” he said.
“Little did I know she was going to have an enormous future.”
Cr Keith presented Mariah a medallion for representing Parkes at the Rio Olympic Games before presenting her with one more special honour.
She is the first recipient of a Star of Parkes Shire – an clever initiative introduced by Parkes Shire Council where a star in Orion’s Belt will now be named after her.
“This evening we recognise excellence in sport at an international level,” Cr Keith said.
“And Mariah is just that, a sports star.
“The Star of Parkes is a symbolic honour, inspired by the tradition of presenting the Key to the City.
“The stars are reflective of the Parkes Shire – our starry skies, the iconic CSIRO Radio Telescope The Dish and our shining future.
“The Parkes Shire Council is proud to present you with the first Star of Parkes Shire...The Star recognises your dedication, ability and desire to succeed, and the sacrifices you have made to reach the pinnacle of your chosen sport, hockey,” he said.
“We are proud of you and the wonderful ambassador that you have been for Parkes Shire.”
Mariah took centre stage to receive her gifts, presenting a gift of her own to Parkes, handing general manager Kent Boyd and Cr Keith a signed photo and signed t-shirt.
She also talked through with the crowd a number of iconic moments in her hockey career captured through photos before posing for photos and catching up with locals.
Stay tuned, an interview with the girl herself and more photos to follow soon.