It’s the sixth year now of the Blessing of the Bikes and it’s hard to believe that it’s now closer to its tenth year than its first. How time has flown by and while the theme has stayed the same, the Blessing of the Bikes has certainly changed and become so much bigger, more interesting and far more professionally organised. And all of that has been for the better. When I talk to some locals in Mirboo North there is certainly a lot of regret that the event moved on to San Remo but, as that old saying goes, ‘You don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. This most certainly applies to the Blessing of the Bikes. Our sleepy hollow became just that little bit sleepier when we lost the Blessing of the Bikes. But while we have other events on the calendar, excepting the Italian Festa, the Blessing of the Bikes is the only event that drew crowds from so far and wide.
I would hope one thing that should be evident by now to anyone that reads my blog is that I’m pretty much a lover of nature and the Australian landscape, especially our forests. The preservation and utilisation of our forests is something that has always been of interest to me though, in saying that, I’ve never been an activist or such in pursuit of unrealistic ideals or ends. And, to be honest, I think it’s the activists that have done far greater damage to our forests than any single group or industry. That activism all too often prevents proper forest management, allowing things such as fuel loads to build to levels that when a forest fire occurs, it becomes something of a monster. It’s something that we’ve experienced a number of times in recent history and which became a serious issue in Mirboo North in 2009. The US is realising that the same activism is the root cause of the devastating California fires and is something that the government is now addressing, but we still have a long way to go.
I can’t believe how quickly the Blessing of the Bikes has come around once again. With Winter now a distant memory and Spring almost two thirds of the way over, the 2018 Blessing of the Bikes was a welcome lead-in to Summer that’s waiting just around the corner. I didn’t get to catch up with Marcel and Sabine after our visit to their new Inline 4 Cafe, but I’m certain they once again pulled out all stops to make this the sort of event that is catching everyone’s attention. And clearly the Bass Shire had done similarly. This year I decided to do things a little differently, as I’ve really been into learning about video production, and so wanted to record the entire event with my new video gear. This was the first such event that I wanted to tackle from a movie making point of view but, unfortunately, it turned out to be a bust for various reasons.
I don’t usually dedicate a story specifically on an individual cafe, other than in my Life Behind Bars series, but in this case I’m making an exception, given the nature of this particular cafe and how it has cemented a major event into our local history. Most motorcycle riders and many other travellers that have passed through Mirboo North over the years will know of the Inline 4 Cafe, which was almost a mandatory stopover for riders. They may also be aware that in 2014 the owners Marcel and Sabine started the Blessing of the Bikes, which has now grown to become a major Victorian motorcycle event that precedes the Victorian Moto GP at Philip Island. That said, things weren’t always smooth riding as I’ve previously written, especially as the Blessing of the Bikes continued to grow, so there came a time when the event had to find a new home. That new home became San Remo, where the first Blessing of the Bikes in 2017 was a resounding success; however, that wasn’t the end of things, as Marcel and Sabine wanted to continue with the Inline 4 Cafe and that too has now found a new home.
When economic times aren’t at their best, it’s often small towns that suffer the most as businesses close and employment opportunities fall, which in turn tends to create a snowball effect on other businesses. So you generally find that small towns will embrace anyone that is prepared to open a business that will, even if only in a small way, add to the growth and potential of the township and its community. And if someone looks to start something significant in or near the town and genuinely add to the economic growth of the area, most towns will do everything in their power to make sure that the business is welcomed and supported by the community, as well as encouraging the local council to make the development as painless as possible. Sadly, based on recent experience, that doesn’t seem to be the case when it involves Mirboo North and, as much as some would like to believe fairy tales and the like, we are not Hobbiton and those that want to start businesses in town are not Orcs.
The afternoon today on New Year’s Eve 2017 was a truly great time at Inline 4 Cafe Mirboo North. Along with many other people, we were celebrating the good times that Inline 4 Cafe has brought to Mirboo North including the amazing Blessing of the Bikes that put Mirboo North on the map. We were also there to give Marcel and Sabine our best wishes in the coming years. Had we known, I would have been there much earlier in the day to appreciate how many riders had come from near and far to say hello and goodbye. It was only goodbye in the sense that Inline 4 Cafe was moving on, not disappearing.
Like last time, I won’t try and write anything about the bikes themselves, I’ll just leave them to tell their own story. The shots are basically what I found interesting as well as approachable. There were so many more I could have covered, but with the sheer numbers, the bikes being packed in, and the people milling about, it was often impossible to get a shot.
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.
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.
After three great years of the Blessing of the Bikes, I have to sadly note that it will no longer be held in Mirboo North. With everything having gone very quiet for this year’s event, I recently asked Marcel from Inline 4 Cafe, what was happening, as there were rumours suggesting that there wasn’t to be a 2017 event. Regrettably, it’s become just too difficult and stressful to try and run a fourth Blessing of the Bikes in Mirboo North, given the limited resources and lack of wider support. I know from what I’ve personally heard around the traps that there are elements in Mirboo North that have vehemently opposed this event from the very beginning and there also seems to be a general lack of interest from local businesses, as well as the South Gippsland Shire. Though this doesn’t apply to all, as there have been individuals and others that have provided solid support throughout the last three years.