Ave Atque Vale – Latin for Hail (Welcome) and Farewell; originally a military tradition that reflects camaraderie and esprit de corps for new arrivals and those who are departing. Firstly, the farewell (Vale) is for the Blessing of the Bikes in Mirboo North. After three great years, the Blessing of the Bikes will now depart for new vistas and, sadly, Mirboo North loses a significant and fantastic event. For many of the supporters (silent or otherwise), this will be an extremely disappointing outcome and it will be difficult to explain to future visitors why the Blessing of the Bikes is no longer our event. Secondly, the welcome (Ave) is for San Remo, the Bass Coast Shire and the San Remo & District Business and Tourism Association who actively sought to secure this event when it became evident that it needed a new home. And a new home the Blessing of the Bikes has most certainly found.
I’ll make no bones about it, I’m very sad that the Blessing of the Bikes has been lost to Mirboo North, and the region in general, because of what appears to be petty politics and, with a bit more ‘connectedness’ perhaps it didn’t have to end this way. I’m not a motorcycle rider and I’ve only ridden a motorbike once in my life (a trail bike at Lake Albacutya when I was 19), so there’s no bias in what I’m writing when it comes to motorcycle ownership. The Blessing of the Bikes is not just an event about motorcycles, it’s an event about people, camaraderie, community and belonging and, based on anecdotal comments and letters to the Mirboo North Times, all that I can assume is that all of this seemed to be too much for some who saw the event more of a threat than a blessing. The fact that that the Blessing of the Bikes met with such resistance and animosity from a vocal minority, and found it so difficult to garner sufficient ongoing support to maintain it in Mirboo North, is likely to discourage others from considering any new events to attract visitors to our township. Good luck if they try.
With that partly off my chest, in many ways, the change is for the better. The Blessing of the Bikes now has a host that has given the event their wholehearted ‘blessing’ and thus the event has found a home where it looks like it will be appreciated, supported and highly welcomed for years to come. In many ways San Remo may be the ideal location as riders from various points of the compass in Gippsland, those from the northern states and those doing a day ride from Melbourne, can still enjoy the ride through the beautiful hills and countryside of this part of Victoria. And, as they journey to San Remo, they can give a passing nod to Mirboo North as they ride through, remembering the good times that were had. Then there are others that can now take a shorter ride from Melbourne and have a lesser distance to journey back home. Additionally, for those who have travelled from far and wide to see the racing at Phillip Island the following weekend, they will already be just about set up for race day following the Blessing of the Bikes. Hopefully the weather will be brighter than on this very early morning of the announcement.
So it was fortunate that I was able to attend the official announcement at San Remo to find out some of the views on the forthcoming event. Firstly, I asked the Bass Coast Shire Events Coordinator Frank Angarane what motivated the shire to become a supporter of the Blessing of the Bikes. Frank outlined that Bass Coast Shire has always been a strong advocate of events and seeks to host a diverse range of events to cater to all interests. That said, he was of the view that the Blessing of the Bikes was a natural addition to San Remo, offering an ideal start to the Phillip Island Grand Prix the following weekend. Frank was under no illusion that this was going to be a massive undertaking, but was looking forward to it nonetheless. The San Remo & District Business and Tourism President Craig Edmonds said that the association had canvassed traders and received a very positive response overall, but admitted that few comprehended the scale of this event. To that end, the association will hold community meetings to ensure that everyone remains informed as to what’s happening. Reverend John McMahon and Pastors John and Carolyn Robertson also attended, explaining that the event was not solely a religious event, but one of community and comradeship.
So that’s it folks, two completely different attitudes and mindsets at work. And, as a final point (I still have a bee in my bonnet), I can’t help but feel that some people want South Gippsland to be associated with just ‘art and craft’ in one form or another, while Bass Coast sees a future in events incorporating a diverse range of interests, cultures and demographics. Thankfully, the likes of Unify hasn’t met with any serious push back, yet, so it appears safe. However, I hope that the Italian Festa doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Blessing of the Bikes if it continues to grow in popularity, though nothing is ever a given. All that we can do is wait and see what happens down the track. However, for all of those that enjoyed the Mirboo North Blessing of the Bikes, I hope to join you in San Remo on 14 Oct 2017 and let’s see if the numbers can exceed 10,000 this year to show how important an event the Blessing of the Bikes has become.