PLANS remain in place for the Ballarat Gift to be returned to its traditional February home despite news of Maryborough cancelling its January 1 event.
The board of the Maryborough Highland Society recently voted to cancel its gathering, citing the uncertainty around crowd numbers, travel restrictions and competitors not being able to train.
But the Ballarat Gift, which is traditionally run in February, but was moved to March this year due to issues surrounding COVID, is keen to push ahead with plans for a return to its traditional time of the year.
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Ballarat Gift co-president Andrew Hoffman, who has been joined by Peter Emerson in the role for this year, replacing new City of Ballarat chief executive Evan King, said there were no thoughts of any changes to this year's racing.
"We haven't been able to sit down as a group due to all the restrictions, but we are still planning for February," Hoffman said.
"We've got a COVID plan to deal that sort of thing. For us it's healthy bodies, healthy minds. We've still got to have protocols in place and we'll use them as we're required."
President of the Maryborough Highland Society Andrew Rae said the decision to cancel for the second year in a row was made in the best interests of competitors, entertainers and sponsors.
"This decision was made in consultation with bands and athletes who had informed the society that under the current restrictions that they had not been able to practice nor train," he said.
"With the prospect of limited crowd numbers, the society had no choice but to cancel one of Maryborough's biggest events of the year," Rae said.
The cancellation of the Maryborough Highlands Gathering and Gift for the second year running means it is just the fifth time since 1857 the event has not run, the other times during World War II.
General Manager of the Maryborough Highland Society Malcolm Blandthorn said the committee held off as long as it could.
"The Victorian Road Map to reopening meant that the likeliness of large crowd numbers to attend any event by this date seemed very unlikely," he said.
"The number of athletes, bands and volunteers would have met any restricted number set, meaning that the public would have to be shut out."
Hoffman said he was disappointed that Maryborough had had to make the decision.
"I was a little bit surprised, but with it run in conjunction with the highlands theme, you can understand why the decision has been made."
Hoffman said in a Commonwealth Games year, Ballarat was hoping to attract a high-calibre of runner looking to make their mark in preparing for the national trials.
He said the club was actively still chasing sponsorship and anyone wishing to support the event was encouraged to get in contact with the Ballarat Gift organising committee.
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