The Harts Range racecourse is situated on Mount Riddock Station, about two hundred kilometers east along the Plenty Highway from the Stuart Highway. The shortest way to Alice Spring from western Queensland is along this highway but can be slow as your looking at 750 K's of dirt that is rough enough at times. During my trips to the NT shows I have been asked many time if I was going to attend the Harts Range races so this year after the Darwin show headed back down to see what it was all about. It started back in 1946 when the three Web brothers, Bob Darken and several ringers who had been branding calves all day challenged each other to a horse race back to the camp. On the day there was no clear winner as they finished in a cloud of dust much to the annoyance of the cook who was mixing damper which was covered with dirt kicked up by the horses. Having enjoyed the race so much they, along with other nearby station owners decided to form a race club. The first meeting was held the following year and was a huge success, so much so in fact that Bob Darken applied to the Northern Territory Administrator for a Central Australian holiday to be granted for each weekend of all future Harts Range race meetings. The Administrator readily agreed and gazetted the day which is now known as "picnic day".
Fit and ready for race one
Despite the bitterly cold wind and rain over one hundred and fifty station people arrived from somewhere out there in the bush as well as the same number of the local indigenous community from Harts Range. As with most outback events the crowd arrives on Friday, the day before the action starts, set up their camps here and there in the bush, then settle in for two days of events and on the Monday holiday slowly pack up and return to from where ever they came. This race meeting is so far from anywhere its protected from the influx of townies from our capital cities so remains a traditional bush weekend for the those from the bush, vastly different to the Brunette and Birdsville races, thank goodness. Day one commenced with gymkana events for kids then the adults followed by a couple of races and then during the afternoon the elimination rides for the bull ride and saddle bronc. That night a 70's style evening with dinner and dancing was supported by a couple of bands that entertained the various groups well into the early hours. Not having many social functions available through the year this crowd made the most of it and really let their hair down. Next morning those who had to be up made the effort and ran all the kids races. There were flat races, three legged races, sack races and lolly scramble. They worked their way through all age groups with lots of prizes handed out. These were followed by the open 100 meters and the mile, or one lap of the race track. Every race had a full field and raced under extreme conditions as the gale force icy cold wind blew relentlessly all weekend. Another pretty tough race was the truck tyre rolling event for those sixteen and over. Then final challenge for the ladies was the cow tail throwing comp. Hell this was a wild event, there were cow tails landing off the track into the spectators and one lobbed into the grand stand, the girls had a wonderful time.
Strong south westerly
Final of the twenty five meter race.
Girls sack race.
Ladies cow tail throwing.
With the mornings programme complete everybody headed over to the rodeo grounds. Until the livestock were organised there was whip cracking, swag rolling, panel climbing and pogo stick riding . Everybody wanted to have a go and plenty of beer and rum flowed to keep people in the mood for fun. Eventually the finals of the rodeo got under way and the stock performed extremely well, better than the riders most of the time so there were plenty of spills much to the enjoyment of the crowd,
This was a fantastic weekend of fun, the outback way, and if you are looking for some real bush entertainment then make plans to be there next year. Until next time. Steve and Sass.