Community & Business

8 May, 2024

Great race set to go national

MAREEBA Shire will be thrust into the national spotlight this week, with two major broadcasters making the trip north to cover the 21st Great Wheelbarrow Race.

By Ellie Fink

RACE READY: Superheroes from team To Chillagoe for Cole with Great Wheelbarrow Race Chair Kevin Davies who is thrilled that the 21st race will have national television coverage.
RACE READY: Superheroes from team To Chillagoe for Cole with Great Wheelbarrow Race Chair Kevin Davies who is thrilled that the 21st race will have national television coverage.

Channel 7’s Sunrise and ABC’s Back Roads will both feature the race which takes competitors on a 140km course from Mareeba to Chillagoe to raise money for their respective charities and pay homage to early pioneers who travelled between towns with wheelbarrows looking for work. 

Race Chair and chief marshal Cr Kevin Davies was smiling with some satisfaction last week after his tenacity and persistence paid off when he heard that the Sunrise weather team, fronted by Sam Mac, would be coming to cover the start of the race.

Cr Davies says he had emailed the Sunrise team every few weeks since January.

“I started with a good email at the start explaining the race and telling them how good it would be to get Sunrise out here to cover the event,” he said. 

“Sunrise is always looking for quirky things to cover on their morning show, and what is quirkier than the Great Wheelbarrow Race?”

The race has also managed to attract the attention of the weekly ABC program Back Roads which seeks to showcase small country towns.

Earlier this year, ABC producer Sophie Wiesner contacted Cr Davies about covering the race over the three days.

“A couple of years ago, we came across the Great Wheelbarrow Race and we thought it would make a really good yarn because it had a really good narrative arc for an episode, so we started to do our research,” she said. 

“It sat there as a potential episode for awhile and then our schedules just lined up and we decided it was time.”

The ABC team visited the region recently for a reconnaissance trip, where Ms Wiesner said she was fascinated with the landscape and the people who live in small towns like Almaden, Chillagoe and Dimbulah. 

During the trip, trio Missy’s Donors and social team Dad’s Army were interviewed and will be featured during the program when it airs in early 2025. 

Cr Davies is thrilled with the national promotion the coverage of both programs will have on the shire.

“The race brings so many economic benefits to the communities of Almaden, Irvinebank, Petford and Chillagoe and it gives them a real boost,” he said. 

“We have had people really going through it with the floods ... people are still really hurting. Rural production like mangoes and avocados are down and this national coverage will really give us a boost back up. 

“It is all really starting to come together now ... I am really happy to see it all happening and our goal now is to make sure everyone has fun.” 

Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin said she was excited to see the shire receive national recognition. 

“I look forward to welcoming two film crews to our shire for the Great Wheelbarrow Race,” she said.

“This is great exposure for our shire, and I hope many residents come out to join in the fun.”

Locals are being encouraged to come down to Davies Park on Friday 10 May from 5.30am to be part of several live crosses during Sunrise.  Food and coffee will be available on-site. 

The 21st race will kick off with the Downtown Parade on Friday from 9.30am along Byrnes Street, and everyone is encouraged to come and line the main street to cheer the participants on.

More than 35 teams will then take off from Vaughan Street on Friday morning, including last year’s winning team and record holder, Tunes Squad, the boys in the red Speedos Missy’s Donors, the Marvel and DC superheros from To Chillagoe for Cole and fan-favourite Dad’s Army. 

The first stop of the event is at Dimbulah, where racers and their support teams can enjoy the Dimby Dinner Do before heading off to Almaden on Saturday morning. That night, everyone will enjoy the Almaden Bush Bash, with live music on offer.

On Sunday morning, the competitors make the final trek to Chillagoe, where they will celebrate the race’s 21st birthday and crown the winners. 


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