Blessing Of The Bikes – 2017 San Remo Part 1

It’s been a tumultuous year for Marcel and Sabine from Inline4 Cafe and I know that they have been sweating bricks all year over the change in venue for the Blessing of the Bikes from Mirboo North to San Remo. But their efforts have not been in vain, as this year’s event has become something much more significant and far more mature than what came before. The past three years has seen the Blessing of the Bikes grow from a hesitant 500 or so riders to one that this year appears to have eclipsed 8,000+ riders (my estimate). And it’s all to do with support. It’s not just the riders and sponsors that have thrown in their support, but it should be recognised that the Bass Coast Shire and the San Remo business and broader community have also put in a magnificent effort to ensure that this event would succeed and succeed it has. In fact, were it not for the efforts of the latter, this event may well have faded into history.

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Firstly, the Blessing of the Bikes has certainly had a major impact on San Remo, in a very good way by the looks of it. Just about every available accommodation was been booked out before this event and may continue on for the following weekend when Round 16 of the MotoGP is held at Phillip Island. Secondly, every local business, school and club, has realised what this event means to San Remo and so have taken every effort to ensure that it succeeds and that visitors are not just welcome, but seen to be welcome. I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in San Remo early this Saturday morning, but the overall atmosphere was very different to the last three Blessing of the Bike events at Mirboo North, especially so early in the day. There was a feeling of anticipation and excitement that I never felt in Mirboo North, but maybe that was just me feeling a bit excited as well.

Early Arrivals - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Early Arrivals – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Marcel and Sabine finally relaxing - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Marcel and Sabine finally relaxing – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

DJ Carl Cox and friends - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

DJ Carl Cox and friends – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

The other thing that was immediately obvious was the excellent organisation and placement of all the stall holders and promotion vans. They were centrally located so that they became a focal point and also supported all the adjacent local shops that were clearly doing quite well from the day’s event as the crowds rolled in. Speaking to some of the stall holders, especially the local schools having their sausage sizzles etc, they were ecstatic about the opportunity to be there with a crowd that probably exceeded 10,000 riders (given that many riders had pillion passengers) and visitors. The local hotels had been putting on entertainment etc for several days for the early arrivals, as I understand, and some were really preparing for some major partying, no doubt part of that would also be for next weekend’s MotoGP.

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Sarah and Laura (Harley Heaven) - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Sarah and Laura (Harley Heaven) – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Team Inline4 - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Team Inline4 – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Anyway, this turned out to be a huge event to say the least. Speaking with Frank Angarane, the Bass Coast Shire Events Manager, who was still having concerns the night before, I noted that the traffic management was exemplary and everything went like clockwork. As the riders started to roll in, there was an army of experienced traffic controllers making sure that riders and local traffic didn’t clash and that both were minimally disrupted. All the roads were sensibly sectioned off, with detours marked out for side streets, so that riders and other visitors knew exactly where to go. Early arrivals were coming in at 8:30am, but by 10:00am it was full on. Most riders came in small groups as with previous Blessings, but there were also some large groups coming from meeting places all around Melbourne. A notice even came around 12:00pm that 1500 riders were on their way, but I’m not sure if this was a false alarm or not, as I didn’t get to see that sort of convoy arriving. The main entrance was some distance away and I didn’t feel like making another trip to the far end of San Remo.

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

While the Blessing of the Bikes is no longer just around the corner for me, the hour or so drive isn’t too bad and I certainly can’t complain, given from how far afield some of the visitors travelled for this event. Some came from Tasmania for effectively the day and then back again, and most likely others came from even further afield as in previous years. One of the things that I’d discussed with Marcel about the San Remo event is that it was likely to attract a lot more riders from Melbourne, being much closer and familiar to many, and I think that has panned out, given the massive numbers this year. It also didn’t hurt to have a lot more mainstream media publicity this year, especially given the close physical association with the following weekend’s MotoGP event. The latter is something I wouldn’t mind covering (not the race, but all the peripheral activities), but I doubt this documentary photographer (amongst other things) would ever get a media pass (those days are long gone).

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

As the day progressed, San Remo slowly filled up with bikes. By midday the main street was full and riders were being directed to side streets where they could park. Huge crowds of both riders and visitors, some from the Island, moved about looking at the wide variety of bikes. The variety of bikes on display was amazing and certainly one thing that stood out this year were the sheer numbers of Harley Davidson motorcycle riders attending the event. At one point in the morning, it appeared that the ‘Hogs’ were at least 90% of all bikes in attendance.

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

At the closing ceremonies, Bass Coast Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield expressed council’s excitement that this event was able to come to San Remo and expressed her personal appreciation for everyone that made this event possible, especially the massive crowd that attended, and she looked forward to many more in the future. Pastor John Robertson then gave his blessing for the event, after which Marcel and Sabine Widmer expressed their appreciation for everyone that helped make the event possible at San Remo, and for the transition to be so smooth, acknowledging that a lot of work went on behind the scenes. And thanks to the guy with the iPhone and notepad, excellent positioning, I must have been invisible standing next to the WIN News cameraman.

Bass Coast Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Bass Coast Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Pastor John Robertson - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Pastor John Robertson – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Marcel and Sabine Widmer - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Marcel and Sabine Widmer – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Marcel and Sabine Widmer - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Marcel and Sabine Widmer – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Following on, Reverend John McMahon introduced several speakers who had lost a son, sister and good friend while riding and who wished to tell their story and express their gratitude to the riding community and the friendships that they’ve formed, which has helped them find the strength to adjust to life after the tragic loss that each one has suffered. These are stories that have been repeated numerous times, but rarely publicly, so it took some courage to do so. Unfortunately I didn’t get the names, but I think it’s the story that was more important. The bikes lined up around the stage represented those who had lost their lives while on the road and at the conclusion, thirty doves were released in memory of those that had fallen.

Reverend John McMahon - Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Reverend John McMahon – Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

The formal and informal parts of the day were pretty much over by 3:00pm, though clearly the day didn’t end there for the many who were staying on. Like in previous years, this event is far more a family gathering, in more ways than one, and it would surprise many that thousands of bike riders can congregate in one place at the same time, yet present the most relaxed and well behaved group that you could possibly find. Far too many misconceptions have been fostered about bike riders, as I similarly noted about the heavy metal fans in an earlier story, where looks not only can be, but usually are, quite deceiving. Having Phillip Island next door, I think the community of San Remo understands what motorcycle riders are all about.

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 - San Remo Victoria

Blessing of the Bikes 2017 – San Remo Victoria

I have to say that the Blessing of the Bikes is a huge loss to Mirboo North and I’d suggest the region overall. While locals lament the loss of jobs in the area and panic about a few trees being logged, predicting that the latter will result in the end of Mirboo North, the Blessing of the Bikes was a once a year event that brought significant ongoing benefits to Mirboo North and really put the township on the map. Mirboo North and the South Gippsland Shire gave up something utterly unique in the Australian events calendar and it’s now gone forever. The Bass Coast Shire on the other hand has shown that they hold no bias when it comes to major events and are willing to take on any challenge. There is no way they will let this event slip through their fingers.

Update: And our local WIN News also covered the event.

15 thoughts on “Blessing Of The Bikes – 2017 San Remo Part 1

  1. Paul Rayment

    Great ride down with the Gippsland Motorcycle Club and back solo through Woolamai.
    Thanks to all for the excellent organisation and all who turned up to make it a great Motorcycling event.
    Now firmly on the annual calendar for me.

    Reply
  2. Craig Arnold

    I am very pleased for Marcel and Sabine that the San Remo event was a success but please be accurate when talking about Mirboo North. There was a small minority of people that did not want the event held. But, majority of Mirboo North people wanted it! Mirboo North DID NOT give up the event, it was taken away..Pure and simple. Get the facts straight before writing such dribble!

    Reply
    1. Ray Post author

      While there was a small minority that wanted the event gone, that small minority had, and has, a very loud and influential voice in the community. It got to the point where VicRoads didn’t want the event (receiving a barrage of complaints about the road closure), Vic Police were finding it difficult (my discussions with Vic Police at San Remo indicated that it was much less problematic at San Remo), South Gippsland council wasn’t interested (no names, no pack drill) and some of the local traders also complained bitterly about the event.

      The attitude of Bass Coast Shire and the community at San Remo was diametrically opposite to that of Mirboo North and South Gippsland Shire. I was present at the initial meeting in San Remo and it was so positive that it didn’t appear possible at first. Mirboo North and the South Gippsland Shire had three years to get behind the event and start supporting it, and by support I mean doing more than just attending on the day. And you are quite correct, it was taken away from Mirboo North, Bass Coast wanted the event far more than did South Gippsland.

      The only sad thing is that the silent majority in the region once again have lost out. The event was going to disappear had things not moved on. And one more point, I think I’ve been far more involved in this event since it started than perhaps you have. What has been your contribution and efforts to support and attempt to retain the Blessing of the Bikes in Mirboo North?

      I thought I’d add few more points to make it clear to everyone who reads this blog as to why things changed. When the Marcel and Sabine announced that there was not going to be a fourth Blessing of the Bikes, it wasn’t set in stone, but it was getting too much, too big, for them to try and run it without greater support. But no one rushed in to try and see if they could help, to find out what would be needed to keep it going. But what did ensue was frequent abuse towards Marcel and Sabine at their cafe.

      I personally approached Boolarra to see if they would be open to hosting the event, to keep it in South Gippsland and close to home, but they feared it would cause friction between the two townships. That’s when Bass Coast Shire came in and made an offer. Bass Coast took over all the traffic management, safety, etc and the San Remo traders association took over all the local business management. That was what was needed, but not forthcoming in South Gippsland and Mirboo North. The Blessing of the Bikes never had to go, but it was let go.

      Reply
  3. Bronwyn Pratt

    As a business owner and resident we are very happy to have this event….looking forward to next year! Everyone had a great time and the sleepy fishing village was pumping all day and night!

    Reply
  4. Jase T

    local traders should never bite the hand that feeds . such events have a soild knock on benefits creating business trade and local employment for everyone . small business is not a place for small minded people .
    Good hear VicPol engaging . hopefully it wasnt turned into a Hassle a rider event and revenue raising . there is a growing number of interstate riders who has stated they will never ride in Victoira again to visit the MotoGp or World Super Bikes . due to endless pull overs license checks and general harrassmsnt by vicpol .

    Reply
  5. Daryl Black

    This was an extremely well organised event, heaps of respect for everyone that brought this together and all the riders, throughly enjoyed the ride down there with the ASMC. Well written article as well.

    Reply
  6. Willy Rickard

    Fantastic day just wondering what ghe official attendance was .plenty of amazing bikes. Well organised.

    Reply
  7. Gary Doust

    Well done you have summed the day up very accurately.
    Im the one that put the words together of loosing my son Joel 10 years ago in a motorcycle accident.After listening to the stories of others who had lost friends and loved ones I was unable to read mine out and i thank the Rev for doing it for me . I cant thank Marcel, Sabine and the friends ive made in the Gippsland Motorcycle Club enough for what this event and motocycling has done for me.
    Im sure Joel would have been looking down in amazement at the amount of bikes that were there.
    I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that came up to me after the Rev read out my words just to give me a reassuring hug, shake my hand and to the one man who shared the story of the loss of his only sister with me. Again a big Thankyou to Marcel, Sabine and all those who got together to make this years Blessing the biggest and best yet.

    Reply
  8. Shaz (eezy peezy sushi)

    What an unreal day it was for us and our humble little sushi van!! The atmosphere was epic, the crowd was friendly (and thankfully hungry) and we can’t wait for next year. Just awesome, huge kudos to all involved for making the day what it was

    Reply
  9. ed

    Looks great. I went to blessing of animals last week. So many people and bikes. Impressed impressed

    Reply
  10. Marg Polan

    Fantastic job by everyone involved and we attended but just a little sad about riding to San Remo and not Mirboo… such a boring ride now
    We’ll just have to ride to the cafe ourselves

    Reply
  11. Marjorie & David Chandler

    We are 73 & 77 (not riders) and arrived Friday night, staying at Pelican Motel which was perfect. Our son was riding with C & C Cycles Dandenong group. We had a wow of a time, took pics & videos, hot dog at St Augustine’s plus a nice sit down in their garden. Like to say a big WELL DONE & THANK YOU to EVERYONE involved in the day, was wonderful. Ate at the Spicy Duck – Yum! Can’t wait ’til next year. (Ex bikers from the 60’s)

    Reply

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