The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

06 September, 2014

Birdsville Races 2014

We arrived at Birdsville on the Monday before the race meeting which starts on Friday with the running of the Birdsville Cup on the Saturday (1st Saturday in September).  This would give us time to settle in and also take in the atmosphere and other events leading up to the big day.

It was just as well ............ when we drove through Birdsville it was busy as expected but when we went out to the free camping area between Birdsville and the Diamantina River, we were blown away with the large number of groups already there and also the number of caravans.  Birdsville is a town with a normal population of 115 people, during the racing carnival it grows to estimated 7,000 people (which we thought were already here!)

Birdsville Race track, racing first Saturday in September
I would have estimated that more than 2,000 caravans (all types)  were camped in and around Birdsville.  The caravan park has a total of 1000 sites (54 powered) which seemed full by Friday of camper trailers, caravans and swags.  The remaining camped between the town and the race track, which is where we were.

At least 2,000 caravans seemed to be camping out from town

Will we all fit??

Our camp

The first time for our new camp fire, cooking stew.

The Shell service station is across from the caravan park, this was also the general store with a small selection of essential supplies and some fresh vegies.  The workshop was always busy repairing tyres and recovering vehicles which needed assistance.

There was always a long line up for fuel, with only 2 service stations in town, Shell being the most popular even though 3 cents a litre more than the Mogas. 

On Wednesday the carnival activities started, they had yoga sessions in the morning for the early risers a fun run (6.5km) from the race track to town across the old Diamentina crossing.

Fun Run on Wednesday
In 2007 due to the Equine flu virus no horses competed at Birdsville, so to entertain those who had come to watch a horse race the organizers ran what is now known as the Equine Games.  This is now run on the Thursday before the Birdsville races and still includes other games and an opportunity to raise more money for the RFDS.  The events were hilarious and combined with quick witted and sometime risque commentary, it certainly set up the carnival atmosphere which carried on over the remaining days.

The crowd gathers in front of the Hotel for the Equine Games

Entertainment before and during the games

The crowd is building in and outside the pub

Horses ready

Enterained by S. T. Ruth and her "pool boy" while jockeys are getting ready, you can see here the beer can is used to roll the string around and pulls the horses to the finish line.

She's a real cracker of a girl !!


Crowd gathered as the games continued

Contestants had to place a toilet brush in between their legs, run to their partner who had a toilet roll between their legs, put the toilet roll on the brush (no hands to assist), then run back to the finish line with toilet roll on the toilet brush.

From Tuesday 2/9 through to Sunday 7/9 the organizers had planned different entertainment for the multitudes enjoyment & raising money for RFDS including:  History of the Birdsville Races - the concept of this iconic race meeting & how it came to be;  Cultural Presentation - traditional owners of the Wangkangurru & Yarluyandi land;  Photographic Exhibition - local entries showing landscape & characters of the Diamantina; Movies - Last Mail from Birdsville & The Back of Beyond; Book signings - Sue Williams; Bush Cricket; RFDS Cocktail Party; Fred Brophy's Boxing Troupe; Music Concerts + free live entertainment at the Birdsville Pub from 6pm onwards, plus many more.  We thought the organizers did a fantastic job both in providing entertainment and facilities throughout the carnival.
Some lads dressed in hessian sacks traveled in a Oldsmobile to Birdsville
A star attraction to the Birdsville Races is Fred Brophy, an Australian icon. He's a fourth generation showman who still operates his boxing tent – the last of its kind in the world. He has spent his whole life on the road as a forth generation showman.  In 1960's Fred set up his own Boxing Tent and has been touring outback Qld.  

Fred Brophy announcing the boxers
We attended the Races on Saturday which included the running of the Birdsville Cup. Caught the bus out to the track, found a good spot undercover (shade all day) where we sat and soaked up the atmosphere.  Geoff has been a couple of times to the Races with "the boys" however this was my first visit and I must say I had a ball.  Watched the Race Fashion Competition (oh yes some do dress up equivalent to the Melbourne Cup), but I must say when the dust blew some of the outfits were not practical! !  Still they looked beautiful - even some of the men were dressed to kill.  We had a few bets and at the end of the day came out about even.  Caught the bus back to our camp for a quick shower & refresh then back into town for some more festivities.

Lucky enough to get a set under the pavilion

These are NOT the jockeys, we caught the bus to the races with this lot, it's a wonder it stopped.  Many people and groups dress up in all sorts of attire for the races.

General admission area 

A lot more refined, corporate tent area.

The Birdsville Cup, my horse ran 4th ...... bugger!!

Another icon at Birdsville is the Bakery - a must visit!
Enjoying a Curried Camel pie ...... yum

There was a mass exodus Saturday after the race, Sunday and Monday morning. We waited until after the rush and left after lunch Monday, heading south down the track.


Colin Mace said...

Hello you two, what a wonderful time you have had, we have it pencilled in last yeat, but sold the van.Still at V.V. and will stay here until mid Oct before heading home.
Sorry we missed you here,
C ol and marg

Geoff said...

Hi Guys

I enjoy reading your posts.I was wonderuing where you got that fire brazier?


Geoff n Hels said...

Hi Geoff,
Glad you enjoy the blog, I'm a bit behind at the moment but will catch up soon. The brazier is great folds into a flat pack. They are made in Wauchope, NSW and can be posted out;

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