10 May 2023

Laura races, rodeo called off in 2021

| Matt Nicholls
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Last year’s events were made impossible by the closure of Cape York to outsiders and this year’s event was abandoned as a result of strict COVID-19 rules.

“We spent hours discussing a way to make it work,” Laura Rodeo and Campdraft Association secretary Debbie Gostelow said after Saturday’s AGM.

“Ultimately the risk was too big for a volunteer committee. The rules could change between now and then and we put so much work into making the event a success that it would be crippling if we were unable to go ahead at the last minute.”

The June 26 races have been moved to Mareeba and the Laura Amateur Turf Club will share the profits from the meeting to keep the bank balance afloat ahead of the 125th year of racing at Laura in 2022.

The rodeo association will look to hold a small campdraft in early July with limited numbers restricted to participants and family members.

“It’s heartbreaking because the Laura weekend means so much to so many people,” Ms Gostelow said.

“For a lot of people on stations in Cape York it is their once-a-year social outing.”

Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch, who has been attending the Laura races and rodeo since the 1980s and is often seen volunteering behind the bar, said rural Queensland was in danger of losing such iconic events.

“The state government should be doing everything in its power to ensure that events like Laura and Einasleigh are able to go ahead and with the necessary support to meet these restrictions,” he said.

“I’m afraid we are losing our character in Cape York if we lose events like Laura.”

Ms Gostelow said it would be too late for the events to be salvaged this year.

“The problem is we have to order so much food, alcohol and other amenities that we couldn’t bear the cost if the rules changed again,” she said.

“Unfortunately we just had to make the tough decision, but we’re hoping to be back bigger and better in 2022.”

Ms Gostelow also praised the sponsors of the rodeo, who let the association keep the funds from 2019 and roll them into this year.

“Not one of them has pulled their support and we are so grateful,” she said.

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