The festive season kicks along tomorrow with the annual Moulamein Races set to swell the northern end of our shire by a couple of thousand people. There’s nothing quite like a country race meeting to entice people out for a day of socialising, glamorous attire and gambling.
My excitement levels have been slightly subdued on discovery that my planned race outfit has uncharacteristically shrunk in my wardrobe during the last month or so. It would appear that November’s excellent adventure to Western Australia combining detailed research into beer and pizza with Margaret River wines and cheeses is to blame… I may end up wearing a toga in the hotly contested Fashions on the Field and stand next to the über glamorous Emma (First Lady of Wakool Shire) in a thinly veiled attempt to bask in her fashion aura. No matter what I wear, I have no doubt I will be enjoying catching up with friends and having fun in my attempts to back a winning horse. Using age old techniques such as “What colour is the jockey wearing?” “What number is the horse?” and “What is the horse’s name and can I draw any significance to that name?” I am ever optimistic of winning some lunch money.
Horseracing has been interwoven into the social fabric of Australia since the first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861. Mark Twain, the great American writer, humorist and author of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, visited Australia and went to the Melbourne Cup in 1895, observing:
“Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.”
More than one hundred years since Mr Twain visited our shores and the Cup still stops and unites the nation. Whether that is to attend the race in person; watch it on television; listen to it on a wireless out in the paddock or in my case this year: enjoying the extraordinarily delicious buffet lunch in the Barham Hotel’s beer garden with some friends before downing my glass of sparkling mineral water and heading back to work.
My father Farmer Bill is a keen racegoer and enjoys making a few pilgrimages each year to Flemington to watch the “Sport of Kings” and try his luck on the horses. He has made the observation on more than one occasion that people at race meetings are all smiling and having a good time and often losing money, while people playing poker machines in casinos are devoid of smiles, tense, glum and also often losing money. You can now bet on computer generated racehorses on the internet and often lose money alone in the comfort of your home… I suspect this form of gambling does little to enhance a community’s spirit or an individual’s self-worth.
Meanwhile back to Moulamein Races that will be celebrating more than 130 odd years of bush racing tomorrow. Where the sun will be shining (most likely literally or if not, metaphorically), community spirit will be alive and well and fun times will be had by all… long may they last.