SAN Remo has pulled off a massive tourism coup, with the fourth annual Blessing of the Bikes event to be held at the seaside village this October.
Held at Mirboo North for the past three years, the Blessing of the Bikes celebrates the beginning of the motorcycle riding season.
The event originated in Europe and the USA and it’s not a formal religious event, with riders of all persuasions welcomed to come together to promote motorcycle riding and safety, create a positive image of the motorcycling community and remember fallen motorcyclists.
Mirboo North’s Inline 4 café owners Marcel and Sabine Widmer introduced the event to the local area and over 8000 riders made the journey to the town for last year’s gathering.
But a lack of support from many traders in Mirboo North and some community groups, as well as traffic issues, has seen the couple look for alternative locations.
They approached the Bass Coast Shire Council and the San Remo Traders Association was more than happy to accommodate the event, which will see Marine Parade closed.
The Blessing will be held on Saturday, October 14, a week before the MotoGP at Phillip Island.
Bass Coast Shire Council’s events coordinator Frank Angarane said the event was ideal for San Remo.
“It’s a really good fit with the MotoGP and hopefully there’s potential to stretch that week out with people coming and staying for longer,” he said.
“We like to think of ourselves as a motorcycle friendly location, and I guess that will enhance the event.
“Phillip Island is the home of motorcycle racing in Australia and this is the gateway to the Island so there are some really good connections that we’d like to expand on.
“We’ll develop a traffic management plan to deal with the set-up. That’s our role to get the logistical thing right to make it work and not adversely impact on the town and on people going to Phillip Island and the businesses get the best benefit out of it that we possibly can.”
Marcel said he started the event locally to break down stigmas towards motorcyclists.
“As a motorcyclist there is still that big stigma of bikies and bad guys,” he said.
“Most of the time the media relates motorcycle riders with something bad, the Hell’s Angels and all that, but you never know who’s under a helmet and these days all types of people ride motorcycles, from the normal worker through to the doctors and teachers.
“I just want to give something back to the motorcycle community and to make the people who aren’t on bikes aware that we are not bad guys.
“It’s been totally reflected in the past three years. When 8000 bikes left the town last year there was no broken glass or rubbish, you would hardly know there was an event there.
“People love the event and they can’t wait for Blessing Number 4. There’s new people and the same people coming back.”
Bikes will start rolling in for the gathering at 9am from across Victoria and Australia, with riders coming from as far as Queensland, Tasmania and Darwin and many riders from South Gippsland and Melbourne.
Last year 15 pastors were involved in the day and all religions have an opportunity to be involved.
Road safety messages are enforced throughout the day and a commemoration service by Reverend John McMahon for lost motorcyclists is a moving and touching memorial.
“You see people standing in the crowd holding hands arm to arm, but no one leaves in a morbid presence,” John said.
“Each year we set up a different style of memorial and we give people the opportunity to come and pay their respects.
“You’ll have people call you over to their bike to show you a tank that was given to them from someone else who was lost on the road, or a helmet or a part on their bike. They’re never broken and destitute; the event gives them something to connect to.
“We created a board where people can come and write on it, and we provide an opportunity for the guys to come and express how they’re feeling which is very important. I think it’s a great opportunity and connecting experience.”
Blessing for San Remo