Situated in the Weddin Shire in central New South Wales is the historic township of Grenfell. Many of the buildings of the main street support lacework and veranda posts, which give the town a relaxed country charm. Originally known as Emu Creek, it is the birthplace of one of Australia’s most famous poets and short-story writer Henry Lawson. Grenfell celebrates its famous son every June long weekend with the holding of the Henry Lawson Festival of Arts. The festival includes poetry and drama, craft and photography exhibitions, a street parade and carnival, go-kart races, wood chopping events and food and wine in abundance. However the highlight of the festival, for me, is the Guinea Pig Race Meeting.
|The start of one of the sprint races with competitor getting a little encouragement.|
About 30 minutes out of Grenfell is the only registered guinea pig racing club in the world: the Pinnacle Guinea Pig Racing Club. It has its own facilities and its own racetrack. There is a stadium with tiered seating, and a racetrack where guinea pigs compete in the sprint or hurdle races. The club holds an annual race meetings on the Sunday of the June long weekend. The race meeting is conducted by volunteers and all money raised goes to local charities.
|The 'gentry' picnic in the carpark.|
The race meeting attracts visitors from around the world and across Australia. When I attended there was a couple who had travelled from America just to attend the race meeting they had heard so much about. There were also visitors from Western Australia and South Australia as well as all the eastern states. Although ‘country dress’ is the most popular, there were many who took the excuse to dress in their finest race-day fashions. Many groups also produced the bubbly and picnic spread beside the land rover in the carpark which gave the event an atmosphere probably only rivaled by the Melbourne Cup.
|The hopeful 'Master of Ceremony'.|
There were a number of events during the day. Bookies took bets, though these were often for only 50 cents or a dollar and usually paid 2 to 1 no matter whether the winner was a favourite or a complete outsider. Most of the owners appeared to be children, but I am sure this was only a tactic by ruthless guinea pig owners and serious trainers to lull their opponents into underestimating them. The races began at a furious pace, with the guinea pigs being followed by the young owners, and the official course motivator, encouraging bewildered animals to run the complete length of the track.
In all it was a fun day with a real family and country atmosphere. The event was made even more entertaining by the female 'master of ceremonies', dressing fashionably in painted gum boots and a fur coat, and the male race-caller as they tried to find a date for the 'mc' from all the single men in the crowd. This led to much embarrassment from the single men and terrific crowd participation and laughter. It is a country event that needs to be experienced at least once, but for which you will return time and time again.
|An obvious guinea pig talent scout.|
|A young owner.|
|Gold and silver guinea pig trophies.|