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    FUN IN THE SUN: Sisters Chelsea and Caitlin Manning, of Miners Rest, are two of many visitors exploring the Wimmera and Grampians region this summer. The pair were playing at Horsham Nature and Water Play Park on Sunday afternoon during the third instalment of the city’s Summer Series. Picture: KAREN REES
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    SUMMER SERIES: From left, Shelley Mumford, Shannon Jakobi, Rhi Gardener, Steph Johnstone, Chloe Lehmann, Mel Hobbs, Megan Motton and Bec Bull, all of Horsham, enjoy Sunday’s Summer Series pop-up event at Horsham’s new ‘Riverfront Meeting Place’ along the Wimmera River. Pictures: KAREN REES
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    HERE’S CHEERS: Leanne Panozzo, left, and Margie Hammond, of Horsham, catch up.
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    FAMILY FUN: Rylee Harvey, 2, with mum Teagan Harvey, of Horsham, soak up the outdoor entertainment.

Bustling summer across the Grampians and Wimmera

By Abby Walter

Summer is a bustling time for tourism across the Grampians and Wimmera, and upcoming major events are a prime time to capitalise on branding the region.

Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said small and large events helped to profile the destination and were a catalyst for people to return.  

“Often people are coming here for a particular event and don’t realise what the region has to offer,” he said.

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“For us, it’s about connecting people who are here for events, encouraging them to stay longer and getting them to help the economy and spend money.

“When people experience the region pre and post events, the word of mouth when they leave and tell their friends how great the region is, grows our brand awareness.”

Mr Sleeman said it was not just local events that profiled the region as a destination for tourism.

“Visit Victoria launched a new marketing campaign which featured in Australian Open advertising commercials on television, and the Grampians region was front and centre,” he said.

“It’s great Visit Victoria continues to support regional dispersal, as our region is only two to three hours from Melbourne, which is home to more than five million people.

“We know if only 30 percent spend one night in a region, we see a huge opportunity to continue to grow, so it is positive moving forward.”

Mr Sleeman said the Grampians was a magnet for nature lovers and water played an important role for holiday visitors.

“A lot of our destination marketing campaigns leading up to December focused on water, encouraging people to avoid crowds at beaches and come to the region to experience our water,” he said.

“We’re seeing a lot more people coming here to use our waterways.  

“It’s great our lakes and waterways across the region are full.

“I have been speaking to visitor information centres across the region and numbers were on par with December 2022.

“We’re seeing a whole lot more Melburnians, interstate visitors, particularly from South Australia, and more international visitors than we did last year.”

Green Hill Lake development board chair Gwenda Allgood said people visiting the lake, near Ararat, were coming from across the world.

“There is a family from Brazil who I spoke to who are camping this summer,” she said.

“I asked them why here and they wanted to experience camping – set up a tent for the first time, things we can take for granted as experiences.

“It’s been so busy. We get a lot of people from Melbourne and it’s good for communities as people need to spend money in towns. Once they are here they explore more than just Ararat.”

Fishing fund

Mrs Allgood said she hoped a free fishing competition would bring together campers and locals on Saturday, next week.

“We received a grant to supply children with fishing gear for the competition, but we invite everyone to come along for a fish from 8am,” she said.

“It’s all about getting people out and about, learning to fish and some good catches are happening at the lake at the moment.

“The fishing gear we will supply will then stay at the lake for future use and events.”

This weekend will continue Horsham’s trend of being a hotspot for state sporting events during summer, with Horsham Squash Club hosting a junior tournament.

Seven junior cricket teams from across southwest Victoria played in a week-long tournament across Wimmera grounds last week, backed up by the nation’s second-biggest eight-ball competition in Horsham at the weekend.

In February, Horsham Lawn Tennis Club will host the Pat Cash Cup, which attracts junior tennis players from across Victoria.

This weekend, Horsham Squash Club is hosting the Squash Victoria Junior Silver Tournament, which is expected to attract about 350 people to the regional city.

Club secretary Thalia Hopper said Saturday was a battle of the border competition, involving the best juniors from South Australia and Victoria going up against each other.

She said Sunday was the Victorian junior tournament, with individuals from across the state, including some from Horsham, coming together to compete.

“We expect some South Australian players to stay for Sunday, too, and people are coming from Tasmania as well,” she said.

“There will be quite a few people coming to town, so it will be a big weekend, but very good.”

Mrs Hopper said it was a good opportunity to bring attention to rural clubs.

“To bring people somewhere they don’t normally go is a great opportunity,” she said.

“We always travel to metro tournaments, so it’s nice for players to come to us.

“The tournament is followed by a two-day training camp on Monday and Tuesday where players will be able to get some tips from coaches.”

Horsham has also been hosting its Summer Series, at the Wimmera Riverfront, to showcase its upgrades and bring locals and visitors together.

Since the beginning of December there have been three Summer Series events, with a Southern Waters Ski Show Team performance slated for Friday next week and the 150km Feast in February to round out the riverfront summer calendar.

Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla said the series was a great way to bring people together and provide entertainment during the warmer months.

“Despite some mixed luck with the weather, the events have been quite popular,” he said.

“Locals have turned out in really good numbers and it was also pleasing to see visitors from neighbouring areas and further afield as well.

“We had some people staying at the caravan park who contacted us on Monday with some very kind words about Sunday’s event and the riverfront in general.

“That sort of feedback about Horsham is terrific to hear.”

Mr Bhalla said the council appreciated the efforts of food trucks, market stall holders and musicians who provided a relaxed atmosphere.

“We want pop-up food vans to trade there more regularly,” he said.

“The events have generated quite a bit of enthusiasm from our mobile traders who want to use the riverfront to their advantage.  

“We are reviewing data to see transactions and where people are from. This will help us work with vendors to plan future events.

“We still have more summer activities to come, so we hope to see as many people there as possible.”

The entire January 17, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!