By Stephen Senise
There was a time, within living memory, when the Anzac Day races at Murwillumbah were legend.
Tweed River Jockey Club chairman Bernie Quinn recalls cars with Queensland number plates being lined up from the track to the sugar mill, or a distance of over a mile.
That was during the 1950s and 60s when racing on Anzac Day was banned over the border, and Murwillumbah became the defacto focal point of the Queensland racing industry for one day a year.
During the course of 1965 restrictions on racing were lifted as part of a broader easing of Anzac Day trading hours and entertainment by the Nicklin government in Brisbane, and Murwillumbah ceased to be such a heady crowd puller every 25 April.
Though somewhat subdued compared to those heyday years, the allure and charm of Anzac Day racing at Murwillumbah has continued, and patrons still make their way through the turnstiles in moderate numbers.
TRJC secretary-manager Brian Charman is keen to reboot the program for this year’s meeting and bring back the big crowds: he wants the local racecourse to be the place to be.
While remaining true to the traditions and solemnity of the day, this year’s five race schedule will be run over the course of several hours instead of the whole afternoon, allowing for the track to become the centre of a greater community gathering.
Local school students will play the trumpet call to the barrier before each race, and there will be live music on the lawns by Lou Bradley in between races.
With racing expected to fit into a new time envelope between the hours of noon and 3pm, the thoroughbreds will give way to a bevvy of entertainment and on-track activities, including a Creedence Revival show playing through to 6pm.
Interspersed throughout the afternoon, from midday to twilight, will be: • Mount Warning Historic Car Club hosting an exhibition of restored historic cars.
• Foodie Fest marquees as part of the larger Tweed Foodie Fest Anzac Weekend Trail
• full local and interstate bookmakers ring operating, covering all interstate races, plus normal TAB facilities
• kids jumping castle and activities
The TRJC and local Murwillumbah RSL sub-branch have historically, and continue to, work closely together in preparing a community friendly event befitting the best of Anzac Day traditions. Return service personnel enter free on display of their badge.
The day’s feature race will be the Murwillumbah Services Club Cup.