The following story features in the Wimmera & Grampians Out & About Autumn 2020 magazine.
Australia's richest footrace, the Stawell Gift, returns to Central Park over the Easter long weekend with three action-packed days of elite athletic racing, activities and family entertainment.
Marking its 139th year of racing, the Stawell Gift remains one of the richest footraces in the world and continues to be a prominent event on the Australian sporting calendar.
The pinnacle of professional running events attracts athletes from all over the world, providing an opportunity to showcase their raw talent, skill, and speed to a national audience.
The reigning champions are Dhruv Rodgrigues Chico who won the 2019 Visit Grampians Stawell Gift and Alexia Loizou who claimed the Strickland Family Women's Gift crown last year. Both athletes are from Melbourne.
The Stawell Gift was recently announced as a recipient of a World Athletics Heritage Plaque by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
This is a huge honour for the Stawell Athletic Club and the plaque which is a permanent reminder of outstanding historic athletic achievement will be unveiled during this year's event.
The Stawell Gift has been held in all but four years since 1878.
Run on grass, athletes are handicapped according to form and ability, and start off varying marks accordingly.
Runners race for glory and prize money with many more dollars working their way through the bookies ring.
The main race is the Stawell Gift which is run over 120 metre up a slight gradient, and the final is traditionally held on Easter Monday.
Unlike the World Championships or Olympic Games which are conducted on synthetic rubber surfaces, the Stawell Gift is run on a grass track.
For the majority of the year, Central Park in the regional town of Stawell is home to local AFL football and cricket, but at Easter time it transforms into an athletics mecca.
For the sprint events, the athletes run in lanes that are separated by lane ropes, not painted lines. The famous finish gates are one of the most iconic features of the Gift.
The Stawell Gift carnival kicks off with the famous Calcutta and Call of the Card on Good Friday at the Stawell Town Hall.
All the action starts on Ladies Day Saturday, whilst off the track the Fashions on the Field gives fashionistas a chance to showcase their latest autumn looks ahead of the running of the Men's and Women's Gift Semi Finals.
The Food Hub will provide plenty of food and drink options throughout the Carnival weekend.
It's Family Day on Sunday with free entry for kids.
The Easter Egg Hunt is the biggest in the Grampians region and with a special visit from the Easter Bunny it's the only place to be.
There's plenty of other activities as well including a kids athletic clinic featuring elite athletes run by renowned coach MattyB, an autograph signing session and the Kelly Sports clinic returns to keep everyone active and entertained.
Easter Monday is finals day, the pinnacle in Australian professional running.
With a full day of elite running leading into Australia's oldest and richest short distance running race, The Stawell Gift.
There's no bigger day as Central Park comes alive to celebrate.
- Read this story and more like it in the Wimmera & Grampians Out & About Autumn.