Thrills, spills, laughs and gasps

Fastest cart 1998. Photo: Jenny Larsen

Fastest cart 1998. Photo: Jenny Larsen

Billy cart racing is set to return to Monument Hill in Castlemaine next month with the 2017 Castlemaine Billy Cart Challenge, so dust off the old cart or pull together a team and start building a new one.

There'll be thrills, perhaps even spills, there'll be laughs, there'll be gasps, even the odd mechanical flop, but most of all there'll be camaraderie and friendly rivalry - all for a great cause.

Billy cart racing has a long history in Castlemaine and has always had a strong fundraising component at its heart. The first race in 1949 was organised by Apex and was known as the Apex Soap Box Derby. This inaugural event was held in order to raise funds for the local Castlemaine Kindergarten.

These events were a serious affair with the famous cyclist Hubert Opperman (later Sir Hubert) being involved as the official starter. This spirit continued in Castlemaine through the 1950s and '60s until the passion passed. In the 1990s the race was on again with fresh legs and a love for all things billy cart. Through the '90s and early 2000s proceeds from the event went to the Castlemaine Swimming Club and other local service groups. These events were held and loved by the community until the last race in 2003. People still share the stories of these races like they happened yesterday.

The process of making billy carts is a creative and co-operative effort. It's an opportunity for families, schools and even local businesses to work together as a team. It's an opportunity to involve younger participants teamed up with more senior members in the community in a mentoring relationship. Working together on a project helps build engagement, confidence and resilience for both parties.

There are some safety features which need to be incorporated into the cart's construction however the design is left to your imagination. Previous events unleashed some wild and whacky entries. One of this year's categories, the Most Creative Cart, will see teams vying to win the Trishy Hay Memorial Trophy.

In 2017 the Castlemaine Billy Cart Challenge will run as part of the events for Mental Health Week and will be a fundraising opportunity for ELM (Every Life Matters) a suicide awareness and prevention group founded and run by community members in the Mount Alexander Shire.

For those less inclined to race but looking for a fun and exciting family day out, save the date now - Saturday, October 14.

To keep up to date with all the happenings visit the www.castlemainebillycart.com.au and Like the Facebook page @castlemainebillycart

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