Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival
The Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival is one of the highlights on the South Australian calendar each year, and is billed as the biggest Picnic Race Meeting in the world. Rivaling the Melbourne Cup in size, scope and sheer festivity, the 70,000-strong crowd annually on Easter Monday makes for a vibrant, thriving event that attracts horse-lovers and tourists alike.
The Oakbank Racing Club is located amongst the Adelaide Hills, 25 minutes away from the South Australian capital. This area is known as 'blue grass' racing country, and the club races just four times per year, lending an air of anticipation to each event. The pinnacle race occurs over the Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival, when tens of thousands of guest pour into the grounds to enjoy the two-day racing festival.
About the Carnival
Serious prize money is up for grabs at the Easter Races Carnival, with the 3250m Steeple the feature of the Easter Saturday event and the Great Eastern Steeple (4950m) fetching more than $150,000 on Easter Monday. The Hurdle also takes place on this day, covering 3600m.
Guests are invited to come and enjoy the festivities, which include horse racing, music, food and wine in a carnival-esque environment. The surroundings were enhanced at the 2014 event, when The Paddock precinct was introduced. This gives race-goers a stylish, refined space to relax in while at Oakbank, plus the chance to indulge in quality wines and carefully crafted cocktails while listening to jazz, funk and soul played by expert DJs. Autumnal picnic food is provided by local South Australian food suppliers.
As a picnic race meeting, attendees may bring in their own food and wine to the event at no extra cost. This allows guests to settle down with their pre-packed lunch and save their pennies to put towards the horses.
There's also a KidZone precinct designation for those aged between five and fifteen years of age. This was refreshed in 2014, as the club recognised children and families made up a large component of the event's attendance. This area is housed under a huge marquee and has plenty of rides and amusements, even giving kids the chance to take pony rides and pat animals in the petting zoo.
Introduce children to horses early at the Stable Stars, which is a kids' club designed for horse lovers. Take your little ones aged between three and eleven here for games, craft activities and a visit from Stable Stars mascot Archie.
Older children can participate in sports programs including cricket games, tugs-of-war, netball and running races.
The 2014 event also featured Melba's Giant Easter Egg Hunt, which took place every hour on both days of the carnival. Children were given the chance to win a 2kg Easter egg, with hunts around the venue in between gallops to find chocolate surprises. Special gold eggs could be found dotted around the grounds, with a draw determining the winner of the huge egg from Melba's.
Gates typically open around 7:00 a.m. on each day of the event, with the first race usually kicking off around midday. Parking is free for cars and buses, and there's an express bus service from Adelaide to Oakbank Races operating throughout the day. There are pensioner commissions, family passes and special prices for children, with those under 13 attending for free.
Note: All dates & information in the above article were correct as of August 29th 2014.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Forgione