Let’s keep our Christmas Carnivals alive

The great tradition of Tasmania’s Christmas Carnival series is something that should be preserved.

Steeped in history, many a local can tell you stories of either racing in the series or heading to one or all of the carnivals as a spectator in past decades.

People hold fond memories of rugging up in blankets as the cold sea breeze rushed through the Devonport track, or hitting the pub after the final carnival of the season at St Helens.

Some of the great Tasmanian names got their start at these carnivals as children in the junior races. And in the seniors’ divisions, our up-and-coming athletes are afforded the chance to race against some big names, who travel here from interstate and overseas to compete.

While the carnivals don’t draw the crowds they used to, they are still a big part of Christmas week in Tasmania – particularly in the state’s North and North-West. It’s a legacy that should be protected.

But with an entry fee of $29 for the Launceston Carnival at the government-owned Silverdome – nearly twice that of the Latrobe Carnival fee – we may be at risk of losing spectators.

Launceston City Cycling Club president Michael Bailey said the cost of using the velodrome was what pushed the entry fees up. A state government spokesman said the $11,282 it charged for the use of the Silverdome was cost-recovery only.

Last week, the Liberals pledged $200,000 per year for the next three years to the Sports Carnivals Association of Tasmania to assist with the cost of running the series. But that money is going to be used for contracting of elite athletes and state, national and international promotion of the series, with some funding going towards infrastructure.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t leave any spare change for the hiring of the Silverdome for the Launceston Carnival, which means the money needs to come from elsewhere.

If we want to keep our carnivals alive and kicking, we have to offer a reasonable entry fee. Otherwise the numbers will continue to dwindle until it’s unviable to run events like the Launceston Carnival.

It would be wonderful if the carnivals could be protected and even revived to what they were in their glory days.

But if prices keep going up, with those costs having to be passed on to spectators, they will end up going the way some of our great agricultural shows have gone this year.