With thousands of people heading to the town for the Cycling Australia Road National Championships next week, Buninyong’s getting ready to put on a show.
The road races, on the Saturday and Sunday, and the time trials, on Monday and Tuesday, will showcase the town to a global audience.
Art installations are beginning to emerge, with the aim of showing the town is behind the event, and to make sure the organisers are aware of what it all means to the community.
According to the Buninyong and District Community Association’s Roger Permezel, it will take time, but people are coming together.
“The reason we’re getting so active, is that we really want the authorities, like Cycling Australia, to make the decision about the location, and to get a sense that we want them,” he said.
“We want to prove to them that we want the bike race here, and we’ll deliver.
“From all reports, they’re very pleased with Buninyong, and we can do as much as we can to support it.”
Mr Permezel has been working with his Friends of the Botanic Gardens colleagues, the Buninyong Men’s Shed, and grade 3RS at Buninyong Primary School, to create a fleet of bright red bikes with flower boxes to welcome visitors.
They’ll be placed around the town for people to find, complementing the jazzed-up bikes along Sturt Street for the criteriums.
The initiative, begun by Pat Hope in 2012, is growing, he added, and all this creative energy will pay off for businesses in the town.
“Speaking from a longstanding tourism background, we know that for anything to work well, when you’re bringing lots of visitors in - Buninyong goes from a base population of 3000 to maybe 10,000 - you’ve got to show that the township’s behind it,” he said.
Artist Annie Ross from Studio 408 has been keeping very busy, helping businesses install window displays.
“I’m hoping that this is just the start, and next year we can build on what we’ve done,” she said.
“Most of it’s done, there’s 22 installations, with five left to finish.
“We’ve got bikes with poppies, the ladies from the RSL for 100 years (of Anzac), and Pig and Goose has Berry Street’s foster girls doing those.”
There’s plenty more surprises to come, with talk of giant Tour de France-style hay bale art planned for the mountain on Saturday.
Buninyong Foodworks manager Alan Nielsen was thrown in the deep end last year.
Taking over management in November, he had no idea what to expect when the Australian Cycling Road National Championships came to town.
“I spent the first couple of months standing back,” he said, chuckling.
“Now I’m working with the school, and we’re building an awareness of what we can do with the community.”
Several business are preparing for the rush of visitors next weekend - most in town see the event as a positive.
The Red Door Pizzeria will be closed for the event, but owner Trevor Whitworth has been working hard behind the scenes to keep Buninyong traders in the loop.
“We wanted to connect with what was happening, for many years there was a lot of negativity and businesses weren’t on board - we jumped on with the council, and we wanted to make sure that whatever the council was proposing, we were a part of it too,” he explained.
“I just hope we get a lot of people to support the town, and the shops that are open.
“One of the biggest changes is how positive everyone is, and that’s wonderful for Buninyong, everyone being on the same page.”
He’s also a big supporter of new initiatives like the community festival, featuring an open-air screening of Hugh Jackman’s The Greatest Showman, in partnership with event organisers.
“The other activities are things that, if it can evolve into something else, there’s no reason we can’t look at it,” he said.
“A lot of the time when you start something like that, people might not know it’s on, but other people might go then next year bring their family along - it might take two or three years, (but) it gets bigger and bigger.”
There’s heaps of other ways to get involved with this year’s RoadNats, including the community ride on Sturt Street on Friday, the first eCriterium at Mitchell Harris Wines after the elite men’s race, and the Gran Fondo around Mount Buninyong on Saturday morning.
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