The biggest weekend on the social calendar has just ended in the NSW Riverina city of Wagga Wagga.
Gold Cup carnival, which began on Thursday with the annual Town Plate event, collided this year with the arrival of round 9 in the NRL between Canberra Raiders and Newcastle Knights on Saturday.
We survived another year!
Usually, over Gold Cup week there is not a spare room anywhere in the city, but particularly so this year with the competing events.
At The Daily Advertiser this week, we were told anecdotes of contractors who have been forced to reside more than 80 kilometres away in Gundagai just for the weekend.
Not usually a fan of horse racing - or NRL to be honest - the first week of May brings with it a flurry of nostalgic emotions for me. Mainly because this week also marks my third anniversary in Wagga.
That's right. I moved to Wagga the week of Gold Cup in 2018. I did not yet have a home. I did not know anyone. I had no hope of finding a free room.
And no one told me to prepare for that.
I did eventually find a place to stay for the weekend. But not before I was laughed at by a lot of hotel clerks.
"A room? Tonight? On Gold Cup? You're joking."
I wished I was.
The stress of that situation now a memory I revisit only in my worst fever dreams, I've now had a chance to see just how important an event like the Gold Cup is to a regional town.
It is the lifeblood, injecting millions of dollars into the local economy through a myriad of ways. Honestly, the flow-on effects throughout the year from this one event cannot be understated.
Firstly, there's a direct link. Hotel proprietors and restaurants typically indicate that they've been booked for weeks by the time race day arrives.
Shops do a roaring trade, and the beauty industry experiences a huge growth in demand.
It has been a stark contrast to last year when the pandemic forced the Murrumbidgee Turf Club to fall silent without a crowd on its otherwise busiest day.
Even the annual Fashions on the Field - a staple favourite of any race day - was moved online in 2020.
The mass of good the weekend does for the entire community does far outweigh the personal shock of having to find accommodation in a booked-out city.
I only wish that when I first drove my white hatchback through the streets of Wagga on that autumnal evening in 2018, that those benefits would have been more evident.
Oh to have had someone to have told me as I moved from hotel to hotel, that this too shall pass.
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