WHAT is wrong with Mirboo North?
The town is at risk of losing the fastest growing, potentially one of the best days on the Gippsland events calendar, ‘The Blessing of the Bikes’, all for a lack of effort, interest and down-right opposition on the part of some community groups and local traders.
Most towns and trader groups would give their eyeteeth for such an opportunity.
Last Saturday upwards of 8000 motorbike riders descended on Mirboo North, by far the biggest number in the three-year history of the event.
And while the instigators and main organisers, Marcel and Sabine Widner of the town’s Inline 4 Cafe, couldn’t be happier with the behaviour and response from riders, to what is essentially a road safety awareness day, they said the lack of support from traders and some community organisations was very disappointing.
“We’ve been crying out for help but for some reason, I don’t know whether it’s jealousy or just a lack of interest, we don’t get any support from local businesses,” said Marcel.
“We don’t want to have external food sellers in here because we want the shops and the local groups to get the benefit but they’re just not interested.
“It gets to the point where you’d have to consider moving the event somewhere else.
“The riders love coming here for the ride through the hills and also because it’s central but if the town doesn’t want it, maybe we should take it away.”
While overwhelmingly positive about the success of day, particularly the happy atmosphere among the riders and their respect for the blessing and memorial service, Marcel said he couldn’t help feeling disappointed at the level of local involvement.
President of Mirboo Country Development Inc, Maxine Kiel, reluctantly agrees.
Soon to be elected as a South Gippsland Shire Councillor, if the village drums prove to be correct, she says it’s not too late for the town to fully embrace the day.
“It’s a fabulous event and it has tremendous potential,” said Maxine.
But she says it’s not correct to say the event lacks local support.
“There were quite a few community groups involved this year. The CFA and Ambulance Victoria had a presence. The ‘Wednesday Warriors’, who usually look after the Lyrebird Walk and the rail trail, they did the traffic management. The Lions had a barbecue, the Italian Festival Committee did a roaring trade with their Italian sausages and raising awareness of their event in February.
“We were out promoting tourism in the area and handing out maps and talking about what to see and do. Mirboo Country provided the toilets free of charge. And the shire put up the flashing light and extra bins, plus they did a fair bit of work on the traffic management plan beforehand.
“But I’ve got to say the traders haven’t got on board for some reason.
“In the week leading up to the event, I went around the place and some of them simply responded that “we’re not going to do anything special for the day” but it’s not the right attitude.”
So poorly organised were they that there were reports that some had run out of food by 11am.
Mrs Kiel said that last year, for the second Blessing of the Bikes, some local community and sporting groups tried running food stands but with only limited success, possibly because they were in the wrong place.
But she said success could be measured in a number of ways.
“The main theme of the day is motorcycle safety with the police having a big presence and there’s the memorial service for deceased riders, so for the town to be associated with that I think is a good thing.”
It could also result in major sponsorship support by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in the future.
“Plus ultimately it’s an opportunity to raise the profile of the town.”
Others made the comment, over the weekend, that there had been a lack of communication by the organisers and little opportunity to have input into the running of the event.
But Mrs Kiel said she believed this too could be overcome.
“We do have some traffic safety issues to be sorted out. The trucks have to be able to continue getting through the town but with good will, I think we can sort things out.”