Get behind Grafton racing carnival
THE future success of the Clarence Valley's number one tourist attraction, the July Racing Carnival, is resting heavily on the shoulders of the local community.
The time has arrived for local businesses, which have made millions over the years from the carnival, to give back.
Withdrawal of major sponsorships for the key days of the carnival has placed extra pressure on the Clarence River Jockey Club, although it has been able to entice a new sponsor to the table.
Geoff King Volkswagen, from Coffs Harbour, has taken up the sponsorship of the South Grafton Cup, which had been sponsored for some years by the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club.
The CRJC has still to find someone to take over the Ramornie Handicap sponsorship, which was relinquished this year by Black Toyota.
Jockey club CEO Bradley de Martino Rosaroll said two local companies and two nationals had shown interest in the Ramornie and hopefully an announcement on that would be made early next week.
“It is always disappointing to lose long-time sponsors, but things change in business operations everyday and turning over sponsorships is an accepted thing for all sporting groups,” he said.
“The key is finding someone to replace them at the same values and in the present climate that has been difficult.
“We are fortunate that Geoff King came on board so quickly and while at this stage it's a one-year deal, we hope to secure them for a number of years.”
While the Grafton July carnival is struggling for support, the situation down in Albury this week is completely the opposite as it gets ready for the Gold Cup meeting on Friday.
Last year's Albury carnival took over from Grafton, winning the most popular event on the country racing calendar award.
CEO of the Albury club, John Miller, said the key to its amazing growth from crowds of just 3000 some 15 years ago to last year's 20,000-plus was that the town had got behind the Gold Cup.
“If you came to Albury this week you will see a town that has come alive with colour and excitement,” he said.
“Every business and almost every person in the town has bought into the carnival and it is now our biggest social event by far.”
Mr Miller said his club would love to take the title away from Grafton as having the best carnival in the country and it was working hard at doing just that.
“We don't have the calibre of trainers and horses that Grafton have in July, but we are certainly doing other things such as social events and fashions better than them at the moment,” he said.
Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson said it was important the Clarence Valley didn't rest on its laurels and let the July carnival just meander along.
“We must keep the energy level high around this important week and all businesses should be doing their part to keep the town alive during this period,” Cr Williamson said.
“Entertainment at clubs and pubs, restaurants opening for longer and people just being friendly are all important ingredients in keeping the July carnival number one.”
The CRJC's greatest concern at the moment centres on its Kensei Club which was started to raise sponsorship for the Grafton Cup, following the withdrawal of Tooheys.
The Kensei Club requires 20 sponsors at $3000 each, but in the past two years has only managed 11 and 14.
“We are only halfway there at this stage and it will only be open for another four weeks, so we need people to come forward,” Mr Rosaroll said.
All members of the Kensei Club are guaranteed raceday sponsorships ranging from regular TAB meetings through to the sponsorship of the Grafton Cup itself.
Ken Casson Motors won the rights to sponsor the Cup last year for its initial outlay of just $3000.