By Mark Brassel
If you know how to roll 500 kilo bales of wool, you’d better get yourself to Bourke on Easter Sunday!
“It’s a tradition up here at Bourke,” declared Back O’Bourke Picnic Race Club’s new secretary, Sarah Barton. “The contestant rolls the wool bale down the main street and they get timed to find a winner. There’s also a parade with floats, a long table dinner, fishing competitions and our ex-Mayor has a stack of old tractor and bulldozers on show.”
It’s all part of Bourke’s huge Easter Festival with one of the highlights being the six-race picnics on Sunday.
Back O’Bourke Picnic Race Club only came out of a 12-year hibernation in 2015 and has since built a sturdy platform for years to come: “This will be our third year but my first as secretary after the last secretary left Bourke,” said Sarah Barton. “I have been on the committee since we kicked off the club.”
Bourke is situated 770km from Sydney or a 9-hour drive and attracts thousands to the festival and race meeting each year.
“We started preparing for the races last November – it’s a big job but it’s all coming together now,” Sarah said. “There’s been a heap of interest with 100 memberships advertised and they were sold out quickly. We also had a few corporate tents offered and they were all snapped up within 24 hours.
“We have a small but hard-working committee and now have good relationships with the Stewards as well as towns such as Enngonia and Louth that are about an hour away. We’ve been told we have one of the best dirt tracks in the state.”
The Bourke picnics will feature a fashions on the field competition, a jumping castle, food and drink stalls, a full bar and TAB betting facilities. And there are prizes for the most successful jockey and trainer on the day and racegoers can win a trip to Darwin in the raffle.
Much-travelled Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb took the honours last year with a winning treble: Spinifex Gypsy ($2.50), Aficionado ($1.90 favourite) and Right of Reply ($3.50).
“We had 3500 people turn up the first year and we simply couldn’t cope. A lot of us on the committee are new to the racing game so it proved quite difficult. Last year it was 2000 and we could handle that with ease; we’re expecting a similar crowd this year.”
The Club also has plenty of merchandise for sale including stubby holders and mesh trucker caps with Port of Bourke Hotel hosting an Easter Calcutta on Saturday (15 April) from 6pm followed by an auction and entertainment by ‘Avenue for Troy’.
The feature race on Sunday is the Harry Heart Memorial Picnic Cup (1600m) with major sponsor Rice’s Back O’Bourke cordials. Visit – bourkepicnicraces.com
Below: Racing action at Bourke - a big crowd is expected to attend Easter Sunday's picnic meeting. Image by - Janian McMillan