Stawell Gift 2017: Tourism boost an annual boon for Stawell

Langwarrin teenager Matthew Rizzo crosses the line to win the 2017 Stawell Gift.
Langwarrin teenager Matthew Rizzo crosses the line to win the 2017 Stawell Gift.

Stawell was transformed into a scene many people had not seen before, with carparks full, Main Street crammed with visitors and residents, the Gift had arrived and the town was abuzz.

More than 25,000 people were expected to visit Stawell and Halls Gap and thousands more visited Horsham and Warracknabeal in a big weekend for the region.

Stawell and Grampians Tourist Information Centre’s Annette Dwyer sees people make their way through the region at Easter time.

“It just provides an excellent boost for the town,” she said. “More than 10,000 people come for the Gift.”

During the Gift the information centre serves twice as many people each day as it would on a regular weekend.

It is partly due to the fact the centre shares a building with the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame at Central Park, but the Gift also serves as an introduction to the town for many visitors.

“They come in for the racing but then I’ll give them maps for the surrounding areas as well as Stawell,” Mrs Dwyer said.

The tourism boost is not limited to just Easter. 

“Visitors get a taste of what we have here over the weekend and sometimes come back for more,” Mrs Dwyer said.

“I hear all the time about people who have come for the athletics but then come back later to see the things they did not have time to during the Gift.”

StawellBiz president Chris Waack said it was one of the town’s busiest Easters. 

“There seems to be a lot more people in the area than normal this Easter,” he said.

“Cafe’s and shops seemed full for most of the weekend and StawellBiz’s Easter Sensation on Main Street was a huge success.

“We have had amazing weather, the Good Friday football, the races … it was just an exciting weekend.

“It helps to level out all the quiet times throughout the year, so we really need significant events like the Stawell Gift to help our businesses.” 

Every year there is more and more events put on in and around Stawell to take advantage of the number of people coming through the town.

The Stawell Racing Club holds its annual Stawell Gold Cup meeting on Easter Sunday to capitalise on what is traditionally a slower day of racing at Central Park.

This year the Wimmera Football League also chose to host its first ever Good Friday game in Stawell to open the season.

Then there is the Great Western Rodeo, just down the highway, and many other events make the most of the influx of visitors.

“Every town needs to have a big event like this these days to attract visitors,” Mrs Dwyer said.