Jeff Hanson, NSW Country and Picnic Racing
After what has been a tough couple of years for most country communities, it is easy to find a reason why any country or picnic racing committee might be struggling.
For Marthaguy Picnic Race Club, and the community of Quambone, the past three years have been devastating.
This particular period saw the peak of one of the worst droughts on record, which meant unprecedented dust storms in the region and little to no income for farmers, before the Covid-19 virus made socialising and events a distant memory of the past.
There was some respite though, with last year’s rains breaking the drought and making for bumper crops, while Covid-19 restrictions eased – yet the club and community were then kicked while they were down, with the NSW mouse plague crippling local industry again.
“The community is so decimated by the drought, then Covid-19 and finally the mouse plague,” said Marthaguy Secretary/Treasurer, Marg Garnsey.
“It’s been terrible. Coonamble, which isn’t far from us made the news, they were deemed the epicentre of the plague out here.
“The mice have decimated complete haystacks and stored grain that is on farms.”
A social day at the races is just what Quambone and surrounding towns need, especially if they are to decompress and forget about their troubles, if only for one day.
Unfortunately, Garnsey explained that this meeting could very well be their last, especially if they don’t receive the support they need.
“If we don’t get a good crowd and have a good meeting, we will fold – it’s as simple as that,” Garnsey said.
“We need people there. It is a day to get away and it is also really important to reconnect.
“The drought isolated people with depression, Covid-19 isolated people with social distancing and 2021 has isolated people because everyone wanted to get crops in and that is all gone.”
The club last raced in 2019, missing out in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Garnsey said the committee had been working hard to get their facilities back up to scratch.
“Nobody came in for any working bees in 2020, because there were no functions to run,” Garnsey said.
“The racecourse, it had to be pulled up by the bootstraps – our committee started back in February and the course has been mowed five times, which is a lovely thing, but we have mainly mowed it because of the mice.
“The Polocrosse carnival in 2019 was the last function held here, and since then, we have had dust storms and the dust is all entrapped in those bathrooms.
“The committee is tired, we have been there every weekend this month, and every weekend in March, and we have another three weeks to go.”
Patience is a virtue they say, and Garnsey can proudly state that their grounds and course are starting to shape up nicely.
“I was down there this afternoon, and it is looking in really good shape,” Garnsey said.
“Larry (Garnsey) was dragging the track last week and the course looks absolutely brilliant.”
Despite missing their meeting last year, a hard-working committee hasn’t stopped upgrading their facilities, with improved jockey rooms on the horizon, and replacement barriers to be on course by race day.
“We have a grant to improve our jockeys’ room, so that is happening and in another positive note, Coonamble have been granted new barriers, so we get their old ones,” Garnsey said.
“We have been seeking new barriers and padding for nearly 10 years, so it’s about time.”
Marthaguy Picnic Racing Club will also look to attract a good number of picnic hoops, by offering up a $500 jockey’s challenge.
For anyone interested in supporting the club, tickets are available online now, while no one will be turned away at the gate either, with the country club preparing for a bumper crowd and a terrific day of grass roots racing.
Related story: Marthaguy Picnic Races – Saturday 8 May 2021.