April 5, 2018
The three-day Maidenwell Running Festival celebrated its fourth outing over the Easter weekend with the largest roll-up of runners seen to date.
In all, 287 keen athletes crossed the finish line from Friday to Sunday – more than double the 140 runners who took part in the first Running Festival in 2015 – along with a number of exhausted DNFs (did not finish).
The number of spectators attending the long weekend event was also up by an estimated 50 per cent.
In addition, more than 90 campers packed into J.A. Gorton Oval for the Easter break, taking up almost every available camping spot.
A Good Friday fish dinner at Maidenwell Hall catered to a near-capacity crowd of 120; the Maidenwell Hotel’s Saturday night pig-on-a-spit dinner had a jam-packed turnout; and the annual Maidenwell Bull Ride on Sunday night saw attendances roughly double as well.
The Maidenwell Trading Post also did a busy trade throughout the Easter break.
The annual event is organised by the Maidenwell Community Group, who use the proceeds of the festival to build and maintain infrastructure in the town.
While organisers are still tallying up the final figures from this year’s outing, they estimate the past four festivals put together have earned the group between $35,000 and $40,000.
That money has been ploughed back into a number of public projects as diverse as restoring Maidenwell’s Anzac memorial, upgrading the water tanks in the sports ground, and assisting Tanduringie State School’s P&C with their own projects.
Part of the proceeds of this year’s event are already earmarked for upgrading the parkland and benches on the traffic island that divides Pool Street from the main road, and putting fencing around the oval.
Running guru Bruce “Digger” Hargreaves, who has played a key role in the festival’s conception and organisation over the past four years, said some changes introduced into this year’s event may have had a hand in swelling attendances.
The first change was that in previous years, the first two days of the festival had been devoted exclusively to gruelling half-marathons, full marathons and ultra marathons, with shorter distance runs over 10km, 5km and 2.2km thrown in on Sunday.
This year, the shorter distance runs were also available on Saturday, which encouraged more people to take part and more spectators to come watch them.
Another change was that the Maidenwell Bull Ride was organised by Tanduringie State School this year, which freed up volunteers to devote more time to the festival, helping to man drink stations along the routes, keeping the oval’s facilities clean, and running the canteen.
A third change was the introduction of an Easter Egg Hunt for children on Sunday, which proved very popular with younger runners.
Bruce said only about 25 per cent of people camping in the oval were taking part in the Running Festival, while the rest had either come for the Bull Ride or for an Easter break.
Either way, they spent money in the town and were a welcome addition.
Downsides to this year’s event included that the oval’s coin-operated showers were unable to be fixed in time for the festival, and a break-in at one of the storage sheds a week or so before the event which meant the canteen had to get resupplied.
Bronwyn Spencer, from the Maidenwell Community Group, said the feedback the group had received was very positive.
So much so the festival now looks like it will be an annual Easter fixture on the South Burnett’s calendar.
“We were astonished at the numbers who came this year,” Bronwyn said.
“I doubt we could fit many more people into the Good Friday dinner, and camping at the oval was close to capacity, too.
“We just about tripled Maidenwell’s population over the Easter break – it was great!”