I am gradually getting through my North West Queensland bucket list and crossed another item off the list on Saturday – Maxwelton Races.
In 2016, I had just landed in the region and had never heard of Maxwelton let alone the famous Maxi Races.
I did consider making a last minute dash three and a half hours down the road last year only to hear it had been cancelled at the last moment.
So I was glad to have the chance to get there this year and it was a lovely occasion – the fly plague notwithstanding.
I saw this chap with a trumpet there and went up to talk to him.
I was particularly interested because my father was a professional trumpeter many years ago in Ireland – a talent he sadly did not pass on to his son – and I was keen to know more.
Bill, as he told me his name was, said he played the trumpet fanfare twice for each race, firstly to let people know the horses were in the ring before the race and secondly to announce correct weight after the race.
It was great to hear the music live and not just a tinny recording.
Only after I heard his first rendition did I hear the MC say it was Bill Needham, the Maxwelton Races club president, so I had to go back and talk to Bill some more.
Bill told me the races were broke and on their last legs almost 10 years ago when he and a few others got together to try and keep it alive.
Bill admits he and the others knew nothing about racing but what they understood was the importance of an annual racing day to tiny communities like Maxwelton.
I was later talking to an old bush jockey who told me they also used to race at plays like Nelia and Gilliat but those tracks are long gone.
Bill says Maxi still has a lot of work to survive, particularly after last year’s cancellation in the big dry – they were fortunate with this year’s rain – but I expect the enthusiasm of him and his committee will find a way to solve their problems.
People still found a way to have fun there last year despite the lack of racing and the smiles were wider still this year.
Long may Maxi live – Derek Barry