Hands up who’s heard of the Australian Open? Now keep them raised if you’ve also heard about the World Rabbit Skinning Championships. Hmm, thought not.
The thing is, there’s a whole heap of equally bizarre (although as a general rule, slightly less bloody) events that happen in small towns and communities around Australia, and we’ll bet that you’ve never heard of any of them.
Well, we want to change all that, as not only do they make for a completely unique day out as a spectator, but it’s a great way to explore parts of the country that you may otherwise have missed out on.
And just think how much more interesting they could make your postcards home (“Dear mum and dad, today I dressed up a duck and raced it…”).
Western Australia may be a long way from the rest of the country, but don’t panic, the inhabitants have embraced the weird and wonderful as enthusiastically as their compatriots.
Boulder, in the heart of the goldfields, is where you can get involved in the excitement surrounding the Undies 500. This is a “fun rally,” where flour bombs and bribery are the order of the day. The only rule is that all competitors must be attired in their underwear.
Travel a little west and you’ll find Beverly, the host of what has to be the crème de la crème of rubber duck races. Not only is it the longest whitewater duck race in the world, but you have the opportunity to buy your very own duck and dress it up to be in with a chance at the Best Dressed Public Duck competition.
If owning your own duck seems just too much of a commitment, you could instead change up your Aussie Dollars to Buck Bills at the Duck Burg Bank and just take a punt.
Last, but very definitely not least, if you’re in the Kimberley region at Christmas time, make sure you head to the Spinifex Hotel in Derby for the Boxing Day Sports.
This day sees the culmination of months of training as the hotly-contested seed spitting, stubby sipping and cockroach
racing events are decided.
Honestly, does life get any better than watching insects battle for supremacy? We certainly don’t think so.
Tasmania doesn’t seem to have taken stupid events to their bosoms as whole-heartedly as some of the other states, but for your fix you could take in the annual Fingal Valley Festival which includes the self-explanatory World Coal Shovelling Championships, and the altogether more enigmatic World Roof Bolting Titles.
For a “wheelie” good time, head to the town of Evandale, as the highlight of their village fair is the Penny Farthing Championships, where enthusiasts of odd Victorian bikes dash around the village to try and win a medal in one of the many events.
Watch this and ponder how anyone ever thought this was a practical design for a bicycle. Most of the silliness slack is taken up by the town of Derby with the Derby River Raft Race.
There are a whole raft (sorry!) of races for different types and sizes of teams, but the common factor is that every competitor can expect to be targeted by flour-bomb wielding spectators.
It’s the most fun you can have with a white-powder type substance – that we’re allowed to endorse anyway.
We’ll start our exposé of slightly bizarre excursions just over the NSW/Victoria border, at the Mighty Mitta Muster, in Mitta Mitta. At first sight this is a perfectly ordinary country show, but tucked away among the show jumping and wood chopping is the yet-to-be-recognised -by-the-IOC sport of gumboot throwing (although maybe in London…).
Travelling north-west you’ll come to Quambatook, which over Easter becomes the home of the noble sport of tractor pulling, where you can watch Cannie Cruncher take on the might of the Glenloth Grunter. Can’t you just whiff that diesel flavour now…
Not too far away is the town of Ararat, which is a bit of a hotbed of weirdness. Apart from the aforementioned World Rabbit Skinning Championships, which – along with the rather intriguing-sounding Mud Bash – are part of the Moyston Boxing Sports, Ararat is also where the Montara Scarecrows in the Vineyard are to be found.
Every April, the vineyard launches a scarecrow competition, and for three weeks the fields are dotted with the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright outlandish of the straw people.
Victoria is, of course, also home to the Melbourne Cup – famously known as the “race that stops a nation”. We, however, would rather spend the first Tuesday in November in the small town of Colac, where the hotly contested Ferret Cup is run.
When taking a quick overview of weird happenings in South Australia, the thing that really stands out is a worrying
penchant for hurling marine animals around.
There is both the World Champion Tuna Toss at the Port Lincoln Tunarama Festival and octopus throwing at the Port MacDonnell Bayside Festival to look forward to.
Fun of a more bovine nature occurs in Mount Compass on the Fleurieu Peninsula with what (we hope) is Australia’s only cow race. Jockeys try and coax often unwilling cows, who go by names like Dung Fling and Desirabull, across the winning line to claim the glory that only riding a speeding heifer can bring.
More animal absurdity of a slightly more inanimate nature occurs in Strathalbyn, also on the Fleurieu Peninsula during the November Rotary Duck Race, where thousands of rubber ducks battle downstream, aided by a huge fan, in a bid to cross the finishing line first.
The Cummins Kalamazoo Classic is thankfully a total fish, animal and rubber-free zone, and instead every April this small town in the Eyre Peninsula is packed-out by spectators, desperate to discover who can power a kalamazoo (hand-operated rail cart) the fastest over a 300-metre track.
Considering the energetic amount of pumping this entails, we should probably all be thankful that this is not yet an event to be found in the Maslin Beach Nude Olympics, just over an hour south of Adelaide.
Events that do take place include a tug-of-war, a three-legged race (no, that’s really not what you’re thinking) and a best bums competition.
In a place as huge and strange as Australia, UFO sightings come thick and fast. There have been thousands of UFO sightings (you can trace recent UFO action at www.ufoinfo.com/sightings/australia), the most famous being the ‘Valentich Disappearance’ in 1978. A young pilot disappeared over Bass Strait, between Victoria and Tasmania, after reporting an unidentified craft moving at the same speed as his plane and hovering over him. Neither Valentich or his plane were ever seen again. Spooky. Wycliffe Well, in the NT, is the self-appointed UFO centre of Australia.
We love big things (oooh yeah). They are just plain brilliant (or should that be plainly brilliant). There’s a big banana, big avocado, big bicycle, big galah, big elephant, big lobster, big apple, big milkshake, big ant, big Ned Kelly, big octopus and a big mosquito. These giants models attract people from far and wide, especially the Snowy Mountains’ Big Marino (ram), which had its testicles removed because they obscured someone’s bedroom window. For loads more big things, see www.bigthings.com.au
REAL PLACE NAMES – ONLY IN OZ
Yorkey’s Knob, Fannie Bay, Intercourse Islands, Tittybong, Boing Boing, Boinka, Burrumbuttock, Dicky Beach, Nowhere Else, Look At Me Know Headland, Beardy Plains, Hells Gates, Beark-Me-Neck Hill and our overall favourite, Mount Buggery. All true.