Campers and day trippers have started trickling back to Carnarvon’s Quobba Blowholes, determined to reclaim their weekend paradise, where little Cleo Smith was allegedly snatched from.
The campground has long been a favourite playground for Gascoyne residents looking for a weekend off the grid.
On an ordinary weekend it heaves with life, teeming with locals and tourists kayaking and snorkelling the reef.
But a dark cloud has hung over the Blowholes since the day of Cleo’s alleged abduction by Terence Kelly three weeks ago.
The shadow cast by her disappearance has kept most away at what would ordinarily be peak season.
With Cleo safely back with her family, that shadow has started to lift.
Brett Kilgallon, who runs the Blowholes Tuckerbox food van and lives in a shack at the idyllic spot, said he was seeing a marked lift in trade.
Just two people called into his van the day before Cleo was rescued.
On Wednesday, as word spread of Cleo’s remarkable reunion with her family, he had 35 customers.
“It’s just amazing. I am so over the moon that she is home safe and sound — that’s all that matters,” he said.
Mr Kilgallon was one of the dozens who spent hours searching for little Cleo after she vanished from her family’s tent on October 16.
He said he cried tears of joy and relief when he heard she had been found.
“I am so bloody happy. Just so happy she is back and safe with the family,” he said.
“It’s beautiful. I just felt massive relief for the entire town.”
The caretaker said when he drove into Carnarvon it was flooded with pink balloons and “welcome home Cleo” signs.
“I wanted to get balloons for around the Blowholes but the shops had run out of that colour, which is amazing,” he said. “It goes to show you how much everyone cared about this girl.”
The man representing Carnarvon in WA’s Parliament said his beloved town is “united from every corner” and deserves the $1 million reward offered for information leading to Cleo Smith’s discovery.
North-West Central MP Vince Catania is also pleading with the world not to define Carnarvon by the four-year-old girl’s alleged abduction.
Mr Catania said the same community spirit shown by the town as they desperately spent two weeks searching for the little girl, would help lift the dark cloud hanging over it during her disappearance.
“The community is so united from every corner of Carnarvon and we want to keep that there,” he told The West Australian.
In recognition of this, he called on Premier Mark McGowan and his Government to reward the Carnarvon community which contributed to resolving the case by co-operating with police requests for CCTV and information with the million dollars “to help the town to rebuild and heal”.