WHEN Cupid’s arrow strikes in Wallace, it’s more than likely that Andrea and Craig Wilson are the ones wielding the bow.
The couple, originally from Sydney, have placed the sleepy spud farming community firmly on the national radar, after taking ownership of the Wallace Hotel more than three years ago.
The inaugural Wallace Wants a Wife event in 2011 focused the country’s media attention on the town and 500 single men and women from across the country flocked to take part.
“On a Wednesday night I was talking to the guys in the bar and they said, ‘when you renovate, will that bring women to the town?’” Mrs Wilson said.
“Straight away I said, ‘let’s do Wallace Wants a Wife and bring them to the town’.”
Mr Wilson said he never could have envisaged the response.
“It’s been beyond our wildest dreams,” he said.
“We thought we might get about 150 but we got 500 the first year and last year nearly 700.”
The couple has undertaken extensive renovations to the hotel since moving to Wallace and though the former city slickers are now warmly embraced by the local community, it wasn’t always the case.
“It was pretty hard in the beginning, most people have been here for 30, 40 years to be a local,” Mrs Wilson said.
“When we came it was like, ‘you’re from the city, you’re not going to last.
“We’re fine now.”
“It’s a very friendly, close knit town. It’s a lovely town.”
Mr Wilson said the population of Wallace was reasonably diverse, ranging from young families, to commuters and farmers who had been in the district for generations.
Wallace’s central location is one of its greatest drawcards for Mrs Wilson and also one that benefits the couple’s business greatly.
“It’s not too far from Melbourne, not too far from Ballarat, not too far from Geelong, so we feel we are quite central,” she said.
For Mrs Wilson, the couple’s tree change came with an unexpected bonus.
“When I lived in the city, I didn’t know my neighbours, here I know the whole town and surrounding towns,” she said.
“I’ve never know this many people in my life.”
Municipality: Moorabool Shire
First settled: Mid 1800s
Main industries: Potato farming
Claim to fame: Wallace received national media exposure in 2011 for its hugely popular inaugural Wallace Wants a Wife event. Before that, however, Wallace was probably most notable as the birthplace of Edmond Hogan, who was Victorian Premier twice during the 1920s.
Five fast facts
1. Wallace originated as a Cobb and Co stop between Melbourne and Ballarat in the mid 19th century.
2. It was originally called Ormond but its name changed to Wallace in the late 19th century for reasons unknown. There are a couple of theories as to who the town is now named after, one being 14th century Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace.
3. Wallace was once the thriving hub of the local dairy industry, with The Wallace and Millbrook Butter Factory commencing as a co-operative in February 1893. It expanded rapidly in the post-war era but eventually ceased production in 1994, with the loss of many jobs. The original dairy building is heritage listed.
4. Wellwood Wallace, a large organic walnut farm, makes a vast array of organic walnut products and supplies local and national markets.
5. In addition to walnuts, Wallace also boasts another niche farming practice: deer. As of 2010, Akoonah Deer Farm ran a herd of nearly 300, predominantly Warnham Park deer. Rather than venison, the predominant use of Warnham Park deer is the supplement velvet antler, popular in Chinese medicine.
Five things to do
1. Visit the Wallace Hotel for live music on a Sunday afternoon. Andrea and Craig Wilson have undertaken extensive renovations to the Wallace Hotel and turned it into a destination for food, music and functions that attracts solid crowds from all over. There is live music between 1pm and 4pm every Sunday afternoon.
2. Go fly fishing. Nearby Millbrook Lakes is a private fly fishing company that offers the sport all year round. They also offer accommodation.
3. Support grassroots footy and sport. Their home ground is a stone’s throw from the Wallace pub but Springbank is Wallace’s home team. They have both football and netball teams in the Central Highlands Football League.
4. Look for love. If you’re single, Wallace offers one of the most anticipated events of the year, with their annual Wallace Wants a Wife. Overwhelming popularity meant this year’s event had to be capped at 500 people.
5. Visit the old Wallace Dairy. The 1920s section of the Wallace and Milbrook Butter Factory is heritage listed due to its architectural significance as a well maintained, typical, medium sized dairy industry building.