THE Stawell Gift put our town on the map.
Discussions proposing a sporting event for the town began in 1877.
Athletics was chosen because it was relatively cheap to host and participate in.
The first Stawell Gift was at Easter in 1897 at the old Botanical Reserve.
Volunteers prepared the venue and there was strong interest from the community in preparing the town for the first meeting.
The Stawell Athletic Club-run Stawell Gift occurs every year. It stopped only for four years during the Second World War.
The event was historically run over 130 yards, or 118.9 metres.
In 1973 the race converted to the metric system and the distance was altered to 120 metres, or 131.2 yards.
Electronic timing was introduced in 1982. This enabled more accurate recording.
Robert Irvine, an executive committee member of the Stawell Athletic Club, began his involvement with the event when he would visit Stawell as a competitor.
The Gift gives Stawell a profile anywhere you go...Robert Irvine
“I ran with a man from Stawell called John Dalziel. When I stopped running, he asked if I could come help at the Gift and I've been there ever since”, he said.
Mr Irvine said it was a great feeling to be part of something as special as the Stawell Athletic Club with a committee working towards the same outcome.
Coming from a teaching background, Mr Irvine has been the president twice and secretary for 13 years.
“The Gift gives Stawell a profile anywhere you go in Australia and overseas. If you have a Stawell Gift hat on, people say, ‘We’ve heard of that’,” he said.
Every Easter gives Mr Irvine wonderful memories – his favourite being 1981 when Scotsman George McNeil won.
“George had been here a few times. The sound which went around the ground from the silence until the gun goes and then the noise … it was incredible,” he said.
Mr Irvine said the Stawell Gift, which is recognised as an international event, is a great way to be involved and become immersed within not only the community, but the wider region.
“It’s fantastic to meet, greet and talk to everybody and anybody – from the Premier, to the guy who’s lost his money at the bookmakers,” he said.
Mr Irvine said it was positive the carnival had changed over the years to allow more women and children to compete.