The Dirt n Dust Festival and Triathlon once attracted thousands to the tiny outback town of Julia Creek in north-west Queensland but it now cannot scrape together a committee.

Key points:

  • The Dirt n Dust Festival and Triathlon is tipped to be “unlikely to survive”
  • A special meeting will be held at the end of this month to determine its future
  • Past winner Brad Bevan says it was a “bucket-list” event for locals and professional triathletes

The three-day annual event held in April consisted of a triathlon, horse race, professional bull ride, music and novelty events including a best-butt competition and bog-snorkeling.

A special meeting will be held at the end of this month to discuss its survival, which has been tipped by locals as “unlikely”. 

World champion triathlete Brad Bevan has competed in the festival three times, taking victory in 2007. 

He said the outback event was a bucket-list race for many competitors across the globe.

“I would compete in 30 triathlons a year, and there was nothing like the Dirt n Dust,” Bevan said.

Julia Creek Scorchers set off cycling

The Julia Creek Scorchers train in the early hours of the morning.(

ABC North West Qld: Kathleen Calderwood

)

Bevan described it as one of the toughest triathlons in Australia.

“It would be such a milkshake of people too; from professional athletes to ringers from cattle stations.

“It will be such a shame if it gets taken off the calendar.”

Triathlete at Julia Creek

Triathletes stretch and compete in the dirt and in the dust.(

ABC North Qld: Harriet Tatham

)

Assets and brand to take care of

The special meeting will aim to close down the incorporated association and distribute funds.

Secretary and treasurer Margie Ryder said she had received phone calls from potential buyers who have shown interest in the brand. 

“The triathlon side of things; I can’t imagine that is coming back.”

The ABC has contacted Triathlon Australia for comment.

heads in river

Eastern Creek begins the Dirt n Dust Triathlon(

ABC North West Qld: Kate Stephens

)

The Dirt n Dust association currently holds major assets including a $1 million shed and event facility in Julia Creek’s main street.

It also received funding from Tourism and Events Queensland and commercial sponsorship into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with four people employed to run the committee over its 27 years.

Reliance on volunteers

Despite its financial support, the last full-program festival held in 2019 relied on more than 200 volunteers.

Ms Ryder said the lack of volunteers was the final nail in the event’s coffin and that it was unrealistic to expect only volunteers to work the event.

“I’m in Townsville, a town of 200,000 people, and they’re struggling with their events.

“It’s across the board. Things have got to change in the way we do volunteering.”

men unloading racing bikes from the back of a cattle train

Unloading racing bikes from the back of a cattle train.(

ABC North West Qld: Kate Stephens

)

Bevan said that cancelled triathlon events had a large impact on competitors’ training. 

“I know people who have been training for Ironmans a year and a half ago and they’ve been cancelled three times already,” he said. 

“It really affects your momentum.

The ‘toughest triathalon in Australia’ could potentially be cancelled forever
Source:
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