Palmer's hilltop sign updated for new year: 2018

No happy new year would be complete without a glance at the hill above Palmer.

Every December 31, a small crowd shuffles uphill from the town, or rides in utes and four-wheel drives, to update one of the Murraylands' most prominent landmarks.

They are known to paint things on hills around here - rocks mostly - but the "Palmer 2018" sign is actually made of builder's lime, a hard white dust that settles in the rain rather than being eroded away.

The grass is mowed in the days beforehand, but the final number is only finished at midnight; then they turn to watch the fireworks at Mannum, 15 kilometres away.

For the past 56 years or so, organising it all has been the responsibility of grain trucker Stan Cox.

"It was started by Harold Steike in about 1940, and Dickie Powell kept it going til Johnny Wachtel took over, then I took it over in about 1963," he said.

"When Johnny Wachtel moved out of the area, Colin Wachtel and myself started getting vehicles and started ferrying people up here (every year).

"We get probably 30 or 40 people up here."

He has only missed one year since, when he had a back operation and the doctors wouldn't let him up the steep slope.

He hoped the tradition would continue for many years to come, since it had become such an iconic part of the town's culture.

"If you paint the Bear Rock and do the number, you can join the Palmer hall of fame," he said with a grin.

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