Get ready to watch the bikes whiz by, rock ’n roll, drool over the classic cars, cheer on Santa, watch the splendour of the horse trials, and welcome navigators Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin… well, their impersonators, anyway.
In between we can experience the new age during Schoolies Week and watch the best of the best lawn bowlers from around the state.
Whatever is your go, we can dismiss the notion that nothing happens in Victor. The negativity presents a challenge for Victor Harbor Council tourism, marketing and events coordinator Mark Przibilla, who to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but he can’t please all of the people all of the time.
There is an element of the community who would prefer if there were no events to attract outsiders to the town, but this would have a serious impact on businesses and infrastructure which would equate to higher council rates. The aim, according to Mark, is to develop our own events or festivals to not only boost our economy, but importantly to create a wonderful sense of community pride.
“When South Australia lost the Grand Prix to Melbourne (in 1996), the state government set up Major Events, which became our focus,” Mark said. “The Clipsal 500, Tour Down Under, the Australian International Three Day Event horse trials… it all came out of the loss of the Grand Prix; events that actually make a profit.
“Essentially, we are replicating that strategy. It’s about working with local community groups, making sure they feel supported, and encouraging them to have a go.
“Victor Harbor has about eight new events that have evolved over the past five or six years – the Franklin Island Triathlon, Food & Wine Festival, Auto Jumble, Vintage Japanese Motor Cycle Rally, Lockington Horse Trials and the British Classics Tour which we sponsor with in-kind support, plus the Rock ’n Roll and Whaletime Playtime festivals which we run.
“We present our events off peak because there is no point in us running a festival in summer when we already have visitors. Our investment is bringing people here in the off-peak periods. The Rock ’n Roll Festival is scheduled after the Royal Show, just before Bay to Birdwood, and before the school holidays and the AFL Grand Final. There is a window of opportunity there.”
According to SA Tourism statistics, the visitor numbers to Victor Harbor are generally very good; the challenge, according to Mark, is getting more of the day-trippers to stay the night which on average quadruples the amount of money they spend in the town.
It may surprise many that the United States of America, even with its total population of 314 million, has only 11 cities with more than
one million people. Mark backs up the SA Tourism Commission’s view that, with Victor Harbor being so close to Adelaide which has more than one million people, greater focus is needed to attract this local market.
“A lot of people feel that we should be tapping into the international market, but the more you understand what is involved – 30 per cent of an operator’s fee goes to wholesalers and agents here and overseas – the harder it is for our local operators,” Mark said. “We are only a small destination for overseas visitors. Worldwide, Australia is just one per cent of the travel market; we are such a small player.
“Our local population is now growing enough to help substantiate some of the activities we are presenting. The biggest challenge from a local business point of view in this city is the seasonal nature… middle of summer, not a worry; a time to capitalise on the fresh income that comes in, but what happens in winter is a loss of customers because you don’t get the business and many retirees go away.
“When I first moved into this job six years ago there was a real push from the local community to increase the number of events that we actually own. Traditionally we have relied on groups outside of the city to come in and run an event here, and they expected us to open a chequebook. Over the past four or five years we have actually grown events from the ground up. We want our events home-grown and owned by the community.
“These things do not happen overnight. We also need the locals to support them whether it be part of the organising team, or simply attending. A great community atmosphere at these events can sell this city to the visitors.
“We are putting on a show for ourselves, and the visitors are coming; that’s the bi-product of why we do this. There is economic development and a promotional spin-off, but the community development is so very important part also. This may seem an extreme example, but when you think of Bathurst as a town you think of the car race straight away, so that recognition is crucial to us as well. If we can start to get together an understanding that Victor Harbor is for the Rock ’n Roll Festival or whatever, it will go a long way to achieving our goals.”
Mark acknowledges that, generally, previous generations of city people viewed Victor Harbor as a place to take the kids across to Granite Island and climbing The Bluff, or another day to Greenhills Adventure Park. That was it.
The challenge, he says, is changing the mind-set of today’s day-trippers; getting them to understand there is a lot more to see here, and this place is worth an overnight stay.
“There is a lot more here,” Mark insists. “There is Urimbirra Wildlife Experience, the Big Duck Boat Tours, SteamRanger, Horse drawn tram, the Whale Centre and a whole lot more. We have a slowly emerging market of art galleries, and countless craft places.”
And we have some beautiful places to stay. But we know that; telling those in the Metroplolis about 80km north, which is bigger in population than a vast majority of America’s cities, is a challenge for all of us.
Let’s go see and do in Victor
September 14-15: Rock ’n Roll Festival, Warland Reserve
November 22-24: Schoolies Festival
December 1: Franklin Island Triathlon, Cliff Thorpe Reserve, Encounter Bay
December 14: Victor Harbor Christmas Pageant
December 31: New Year’s Eve Party, Warland Reserve
January 2-20: Rotary Art Show, Warland Reserve
January 19: Food & Wine Festival, Grosvenor Gardens
January 24: Tour Down Under stage finish, Soldiers Memorial Gardens
February 1-2: Auto Jumble, Encounter Bay Oval
March 6-10: Bowls SA women’s & men’s Prestige Medley; city v country championship, Victor Harbor Bowling Club
March 9: ASIC Victor Harbor Triathlon, Cliff Thorpe Reserve, Encounter Bay
March 14-16: Vintage Japanese Motor Cycle Rally, finishing Warland Reserve
March 15-16: Lockington Horse Trials, Range Road, Waitpinga
Late March: Fleurieu Masters Games
March 28-30: Rotary Conference, Civic Centre & Kent Reserve
April 8-9: Encounter Celebrations, Warland Reserve
May 4: British Classics Tour, Warland Reserve
June 1: Whaletime Playtime Festival, Warland Reserve