General News

11 May, 2023

Racing full steam ahead for 20th year

For the past 20 years, the iconic Great Wheelbarrow Race has attracted racers and spectators from near and far, quickly becoming one of the most popular events on the Far North Queensland calendar.

By Ellie Fink

Racing full steam ahead for 20th year - feature photo

The Great Wheelbarrow Race is a tribute to the early pioneers who would travel from Mareeba to Chillagoe with nothing but a wheelbarrow to carry their possessions.

The road they took has since been occupied by cars and trucks, but every year solos, duos, trios, and teams come together to make the same trip as the early gold rush pioneers.

Kicking off on Friday 12 May from Mareeba, competitors will walk down Byrnes Street for the annual town parade at 9.30am led by this year’s Face of the Race, Mick Borzi OAM, who was inaugural chair when the race began in 2004.

The race will begin just outside Mareeba at the start of Wheelbarrow Way, with the first stop being in Dimbulah.

Friday’s overnight stay in Dimbulah will be filled with celebrations at the Dimby Dinner Doo and a good night’s rest before the Saturday leg to Almaden.

On Saturday, racers will make their first stop at Petford for a mandatory break with food provided by the Irvinebank Rural Fire group before making their way to Almaden for the second overnight stay.

The final day will be filled with competitive spirit as teams make their way to the finish line at Chillagoe.

Wheelbarrow Race committee chair Cr Locky Bensted is keen to get the community spirit going, with big plans in store for the 20th year celebrations.

He says both Friday and Saturday night will be filled with festivities and will honour every racer, volunteer, chair, face, and committee member who played a role in the event.

“To celebrate the 20th year, we have named Mick Borzi the Face Of The Race, which is very important, and we have also invited back former committee chairs who have been involved with the race over the past 20 years,” he said.

“We are going to have a big party on the Friday night and an even bigger party on the Saturday night in Almaden. Even the presentations will be bigger and extra special being the 20th year.”

The Great Wheelbarrow Race

Poem by Ron Pedersen (Written in 2013)

There’s a place in Far North Queensland,

Where our pioneers rate high,

For their deeds in this great country,

In those many years gone by,

When they cross this rugged country,

In search of mineral wealth,

They pushed an old wheelbarrow,

With their tools and little else,

Now one man had a vision, back in the year 03,

To honour our pioneers seemed the right thing to me,

To add a new dimension to our sporting dawn,

And so the Great Wheelbarrow Race was born,

It has grown to be a winner in all those ten years,

From Mareeba to Chillagoe, which to many would bring tears,

Now with seventy teams competing and raising more than 400 grand,

For the charities across this big old land,

There are now teams competing from every walk of life,

Police, nurses, bank Johnnies, mothers, daughters, husbands and wife,

With their back up teams beside them, they are sure to see it through,

As they keep moving onwards doing what they have to do,

This event may be unique, but is known far and wide,

To not only those competing, but to those who share their pride,

And they feel much satisfaction when they reach the finish line,

And to know they’ve made it once again and in record time.

“A journey of mateship”, is what competitors say,

With much fun and laughter, they share along the way,

And “a team building exercise” is another term they use,

Which demonstrate their commitment on this run they choose,

He always enters solo, the oldest man in the race,

Jon Booth, the Chillagoe Fossil, and make it home with achievement on his face,

They are a team of winners to which we all applaud,

And this year have been the winners of the Queensland Regional Achievement Award.

So may this event continue for the many years ahead,

And keep on raising money, although the pain you dread,

When your feet are full of blisters and your muscles very sore,

And your aching body’s telling you, “I can't do this anymore”,

Then your inner strength excels, and you say, “Yes I can”,

I'm a dinkum Aussie battler and as good as any man,

And I love the joy of pushing this old barrow, never fear,

It gives us great enjoyment and we'll all be back next year. 


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