Binda Picnic Races cancelled due to wet weather, others cancelled over coronavirus fears

GREAT DAY OUT: Fraser and Anita McMillan, Lisa and Paul Riddex, Katherine and Dave Picker, and Adam and Diana Hogan headed to Bigga Golf Club after the races were cancelled. Photo: Hannah Sparks
GREAT DAY OUT: Fraser and Anita McMillan, Lisa and Paul Riddex, Katherine and Dave Picker, and Adam and Diana Hogan headed to Bigga Golf Club after the races were cancelled. Photo: Hannah Sparks

Binda Picnic Races was called off just an hour before horses were due to leave the starting gates, following Racing NSW's decision that the track was too wet and dangerous on Saturday.

Secretary Dianne Layden estimated the committee would lose $10,000 from hiring toilets, generators, paramedics, police and staff.

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The committee will also refund anyone who hired a tent site or purchased guest tickets.

RAINED OUT: Organisers pack up after Racing NSW decided the track was too wet and dangerous. Photos: Ken McCallum

RAINED OUT: Organisers pack up after Racing NSW decided the track was too wet and dangerous. Photos: Ken McCallum

"However, the club can bear the cost of this and perhaps next year will be a better year and so we will recoup some costs," Ms Layden said.

While some expressed disappointment as they were turned around at the gate, many welcomed the rain for farmers and made the most of the day by heading to pubs and clubs across the shire.

One group who had hired caravans and babysitters to attend the event from Melbourne headed to Bigga Golf Club to watch other races on the screen, play darts, snooker, eat and drink.

They said they would be back next year.

A couple from Wollongong ended up on a pub tour, spending money in Binda, Laggan, Taralga and Crookwell. They also said they would be back next year.

Main events cancelled

The 2020 Crookwell Potato Festival and Collector Pumpkin Festival have been cancelled following the federal government's advice against gatherings of more than 500 people to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

They were due to go ahead on May 9 and May 3, respectively.

The potato festival normally attracts 2,500 people to the town and boosts the local economy through accommodation bookings, equipment hire and money spent in cafes, restaurants and shops, Upper Lachlan Tourist Association tourism manager Andrew Warren said.

The event also raises funds for the Upper Lachlan Foundation, which is passed onto community groups in the area.

Fortunately, the decision was made before major funds were spent on marketing the festival, Mr Warren said.

He said stallholders would be refunded and that the committee would begin planning the 2021 festival.

The pumpkin festival will also go ahead in 2021 and the committee is working with the council on a five-year development application to make running the event easier in future years.

The committee will also meet later this week to brainstorm ideas to make use of pumpkins grown for the event and other events the village could hold later in the year.

"We've had a horrible summer with heatwaves, dust storms and smoke; we dodged the fires locally but there were small ones and then we had a one in 100-year flood in February and then a plague of mosquitoes. We thought we were finally clear and had to have something to look forward to, so it's ultra-disappointing to have all those things and then this one comes along," Collector Pumpkin Festival president Gary Poile said.

About 1500 people attended the 2019 event and the crowd has been bigger in previous years.

"The committee agonised over it for some time last week, but health has to come first. We all have to work together to slow the spread of the disease and the last thing we'd want is to have a healthy community and then an outbreak days after the festival," Mr Poile said.

Mr Poile said the virus would certainly have a big impact on the village, especially community projects that receive between $20,000-30,000 each year from festival profits.

Changes to other local events

  • Southern Tablelands Flock Ewe Championship (March 20) - going ahead but organisers are requesting limited numbers of the public attend
  • Gunning District Association's Community Groups Workshop (March 21) - postponed
  • Crookwell Historical Society old fashioned town picnic (March 20) - cancelled
  • Dame Mary Gilmore Footbridge official opening (March 20) - cancelled
  • Laggan Pub Car Show (March 21) - postponed
  • Laggan Markets (March 21) - cancelled
  • Anglican Women's Afternoon Tea (March 27) - cancelled
  • Gunning Rural Fire Brigade Trivia Night (April 4) - postponed
  • Bigga Easter markets (April 11) - cancelled
  • ANZAC Day commemorations in Crookwell, Gunning and Breadalbane (April 25) - cancelled
  • Collector Pumpkin Festival (May 3) - cancelled
  • Crookwell Potato Festival (May 9) - cancelled
  • Upper Lachlan Shire Council meetings - going ahead without a public gallery. Instead, anyone can viewa live stream webcast of the meeting on the council's website.