Wimmera receives economic boost

A RANGE of high-profile business, community and sporting events has injected millions of dollars into the Wimmera economy this month.

Wimmera Development Association chief executive Jo Bourke said March was the Wimmera's biggest month for events.

The Wimmera Machinery Field Days, Horsham Fishing Competition and Ararat's Jailhouse Rock Festival all drew thousands of people to the Wimmera, providing a healthy boost for the region's businesses and accommodation providers.

Community events such as Horsham and District Relay for Life and the Wimmera Against Cancer in Kids car and bike show received plenty of support, while a range of premier sporting events also attracted hundreds of people to the region.

Mrs Bourke said the impact of events on the economy was varied.

"Some people are day-trippers, other people make the most of our accommodation and hospitality providers," she said.

"A lot of the people who came up for the motocross event at the weekend didn't just come up for the event, they spent a few days here practising in the lead-up."

The field days  - which provides the Wimmera's biggest economic boost each year -  boasted a record 700 exhibitors on about 1000 sites this year.

Manager Murray Wilson estimated about $50 million in business would be generated throughout the next 12 months as a direct result of the three-day event.

Mrs Bourke highlighted the contribution volunteers made to the success of such events.

"We have some really professional volunteers in the Wimmera," she said.

"Our volunteers have a good understanding of the events they're involved with and they provide what people want.

"Their contribution is fantastic both in terms of their time and experience."

Mrs Bourke said people appreciated well-run events and would continue to support them.

"Take for example the field days, which celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago," she said.

"The event continues to grow each year, even in the extended drought years.

"That comes down to volunteers who put in the effort to target what people are looking for."

Mrs Bourke said the fishing competition was another major annual drawcard.

"People travel from long distances and many of them return year after year," she said.

"They all spend money while they are here - whether it's on fuel, accommodation, in supermarkets or in specialty businesses."

Mrs Bourke said events -  particularly those with a charity focus - also created a strong sense of community.

More than 1500 people in 54 teams walked hundreds of laps at Horsham's Coughlin Park on Friday night and Saturday morning.

The Relay for Life broke all records and raised more than $157,000 for cancer research.

Horsham Rural City councillors praised the efforts of the events' committees and volunteers at Monday night's meeting in Horsham.

Cr Pam Clarke said the Wimmera's well-run events showcased the region as an attractive place to live.

"I know two families who used to come along to the fishing competition every year. They enjoyed Horsham so much, they moved here," she said.

The Wimmera's attractions will be highlighted at the 2014 Rural Councils Summit in Nhill and Dimboola next week.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase our communities, our hospitality and what we have to offer," Mrs Bourke said.

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