Former Olympian Bill Earle is excited about the upcoming Stawell Gift, something he has been a part of for many years.
Earle presents the medal to the winner each year and will again be part of the festivities in 2018.
He said it was an honour to be involved and the historic moment each year is not lost on him.
“I cannot think of another athletic organization that has achieved what the Stawell Athletic Club has achieved in over 130 years,” he said.
“Handicap running is exciting and gives all competitors a chance of success and to think that a regional town of now 7000 people and its surrounding rural populations has been able to sustain such an event since 1878 is a remarkable achievement.
“I believe that Stawell as an entity deserves to be honoured in The Australia Day Honours List – if there is a suitable category.”
Earle enjoys the surrounds and said a lot of people deserve credit for the effort put in to maintaining Central Park.
“Central Park is a public asset that is outstanding in its beauty and historical features – the grandstand, beautifully kept gardens, the spectacular entrance gates and the monuments to past champions,” he said.
“Many visitors to Stawell visit Central Park year round to see the location of this world famous event and to see the features that they had previously only seen on T.V. over many years.
“The people of Stawell have a rich heritage to enjoy and need to look after it for future generations.”
Earle said it was great to see young children get excited for the weekend, just as he did when he was the same age.
“As a youngster, the approach of Easter was an exciting time for us.” he said.
“The decorations went up in the Main Street and the town atmosphere began to buzz as people came into the town in preparation for the Gift.
“Like other young people of the town, we became involved in the activities associated with the Gift such as selling newspapers and magazines in the shopfronts of the Main Street, becoming block boys/girls, colour boys/girls and selling programs.
“Volunteers of all ages play a crucial role in the success of the Gift and it provides a wonderful opportunity for the people of Stawell to gain invaluable work experience.”
It is not just the junior volunteers that help run the three-day event seamlessly, with hundreds of other people combining behind the scenes to ensure the events go off without any issues.
Earle said it is great to see the commitment from all members of the Athletic Club do an amazing job.
“Apart from the overall management of the Gift, they do the physical work themselves in setting up the ground, lifting and carrying equipment, attending meetings throughout the year and then being officials (on their feet for many hours over the weekend) on the days of competition,” he said.
“This is an amazing commitment from people who are family members, workers, business people and former citizens of Stawell who return from all over Australia to work for the Gift.”
He was also thankful for the progression the club has taken recently. “They have introduced Little Athletics to the program, women and men competing in the same races, a Women’s Stawell Gift with equal prizemoney,” he said. The Stawell Gift finals will be on April 2.