Ben Reusch is, The Lawnmower Man.
He is also the Manager of the Meningie Hotel. Having travelled from Adelaide to Darwin (via Perth) relief managing, he arrived six years ago and took on the role of managing the Hotel.
I wasn't really there to talk about the pub though, it was his love of racing lawnmowers that I wanted to learn more about. My timing couldn't have been better, the event was going to be on the weekend.
So here's a bit of history....
Lawnmower racing has been in Australia since 1987. It all started when a group of farmers in the Snowy Mountains drove their mowers to the top of a steep hill, switched their engines off and let them go, with no brakes (of course). Lawnmower racing was now a thing.
After small beginnings in Boobowrie, South Australia, SALMRA (South Australian Lawn Mowers Racing Assoc) made up a rule book with different classes and sizes. Lawnmower racing was now official. Mowers competing these days can be anything from stock standard up to 450cc motorbike engines, Holy Moly you need to witness this in person.
Over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, for the fourth year running, they held Mowers @ Meningie, in the backyard of the Hotel.
2021 was slightly different as it was the first time the event had been held with only South Australian entrants. Seven Victorian teams couldn't cross the border and four teams from the West were too worried they wouldn't be able to get home. Thanks Covid19.
The target for this year, Round 3 of the 2021 SALMRA Championships, was to get 50 mowers and 1000 strong crowd. Final numbers in and 49 mowers were registered to compete and crowd numbers for the day saw over 900 through the gate, an amazing achievement.
The best part about Lawnmower racing, aside from the fumes, is the people behind it. They hold the race events in small towns only, their main aim is to inject the money raised back into the Communities. As a spectator it's only a gold coin donation and a great day out for the whole family. Wherever the event is held it is up to them to arrange catering, last year the guys and gals at Cape Jervis raised money for the bushfires. This blew me away a bit, these people weren't in it for any prize money, they wanted to compete in something they loved but they wanted their communities to benefit from it.
I needed to witness this for myself, so I grabbed my trusty camera and set myself up for a few shots. This wasn't just for the big boys and their mowers, there were categories for the young kids to participate and novelty helmets just added to the entertainment.
Suddenly, the crowd grew quiet as a lone rider enterered the track on a mower called ‘Bushranger’. I wasn't sure why he was on his own but it soon became obvious as he began to destroy the track. Dirt flying everywhere and with his front wheels off the ground most of the time, he was there to entertain us. The crowd cheered him on and as I looked around all I could see were smiling faces, in today’s world it was a magical thing to experience.
The setup and meticulous organisation of the day was phenomenal. The grandstands and hay bales are trucked in to the purpose built race track. The pits are set up in the neighbours back yard and local businesses and sporting clubs set up food and beverage. Hat's off to the committee behind this annual event, the true nuts and bolts keeping it together. Without their dedication events like this would not exist. It was really fantastic to see the buzz of this community.
There’s a saying I’m sure you’ve heard, ‘Build it and they will come’ and that they did.
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