We have been blessed with many great South Australians of note. Wonderful achievers like legendary cricketer Donald George Bradman, although he wasn’t born here, social worker Julia Warren Farr whose work more than a century ago with people with a disability remains profound, and Robert Lee Hawke, whom some may cruelly remember more for his pint sculling and Ocker quotes than his political prowess.
There are also our lesser known marvels – volunteers – in their tens of thousands like Trevor Sharp. We can’t place them on hallowed walls of fame, but in the simplest of terms they are ordinary people doing exceptional things for their community and are nonetheless great South Australians.
Trevor is chairman of a 10-person sub-committee, which over the past 15 years has put on the McLaren Vale Vintage & Classic. It is what they continue to achieve for the Fleurieu Peninsula that goes towards making South Australia great.
This is a not-for-profit group under auspices of the McLaren Vale Business & Tourism Association, which also works on a host of other community projects.
SA has some terrific events that draw tourists from across the globe, especially the Tour Down Under, but in this case McLaren Vale virtually raises the money from within to put on a free parade of shining Duco and chrome cars that are then displayed at wineries, the economic core of the region. We talk of the sudden dire need need to help our rural towns and tourism – here they have been doing more than their bit for years.
What started out as a parade down the main street by 50 cars with disinterested locals walking the curbside wondering ‘what the heck is going on?’ has progressed to almost 20,000 people from here and interstate lining the streets in awe of 600 cars and motorbikes in pristine condition.
Now, and off its own back, this Vintage & Classic sub-committee launched a brilliant television and newspaper advertising campaign across regional Victoria – from the western towns up to Mildura – inviting them to come here and to stay extra days to see what else this state has to offer.
The City of Onkaparinga has for some time financially and strategically supported this event extremely well, and the positive impact it has poured on McLaren Vale and surrounds has gone beyond the expectations of everyone so much that the council actually told the committee it ‘wasn’t asking for enough money’.
We hear of some most-deserving events that win state tourism awards, for which they are rightly publicly lauded. Sincerely, well done. But according to Trevor, the Vintage & Classic has never been nominated for a state tourism award because it costs about $2500 to make a submission including sending four delegates to a preliminary judging dinner.
“We felt it would be better to give the $2500 to the community rather than enter something to get self-recognition,” Trevor said. “The thousands of people who line the main street tell us it’s a great event and that is our ultimate reward.”
Not withstanding this, the committee was twice told to enter the cost-free City of Onkaparinga Australia Day awards and won best event recognition both times. “We haven’t entered more often because we don’t have the time to fill out the forms,” Trevor said.
There is a ‘not-to-be-missed dinner of the eve of the Vintage & Classic on Saturday, April 4 with all proceeds going to the community. Over the past 14 years this function alone has raised $60,000 shared by the McLaren Vale & Districts War Memorial Hospital and local CFS brigades.
Among many things this generosity has bought the community a computer program that has monitored the heart of patients at the hospital while simultaneously being viewed by physicians at Flinders Medical Centre. It has saved lives.
Guest speaker at this year’s dinner with proceeds to be shared with the bushfire appeal is the legendary Bob Gibson, a Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee whose long list of highlights as a driver include winning the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1990-91 with Jim Richards, and the ’92 series with Mark Skaife.
Upon retiring as a driver in 1983 Bob became Nissan Team Boss, overseeing the introduction of the turbocharged Nissan Skyline DR30 1986. Gibson Motorsport had great success and it followed when switching to Holden.
Joining Bob as a speaker at the dinner will be his wife Christine, also a driver of great note. She remains one of only 28 women to have challenged men at Bathurst, having driven there nine times from 1968-84.
Undoubtedly, the stories that surface at this $120 per head charity dinner in a room full of petrol heads at Serafino Restaurant complex will be embellished a tad more from last year and the one before, but nonetheless will remain as gems of this racing world.
After the big parade the Jags, MG sports and so-on will head off in their categories to the 12 wineries participating in their respective displays, music, fine food and a lot of fun. Each year the car makes and models go somewhere different that adds to the equalisation-mode that silently adds to the event.
The Vintage & Classic has never been about one person or one car, but one community. It shined so well last year when organisers asked all of the entrants to dress to the era of their car or motorbike, and they responded in magnificent splendour. The local shop owners and their staff will share this spirit also, many of the girls in rock ‘n roll style with their frilly polka dot skirts and bobby socks, all creating a wonderful day of entertainment.
The scope of the community feel extends to the youth with Tatachilla College accepting an offer for students to attend an education night with local police to learn traffic control. Students may earn a certificate; emerge with the self-satisfaction that comes with volunteering, and personally value the experience that one achieves with contributing to their community.
Overall, there will be about 50 volunteers, plus the sub-committee, making this event happen – all for the pride of McLaren Vale.
In many ways, it’s this ‘all-in, let’s have a go’ attitude by the townsfolk to make this event succeed makes this town. And these same contributors have helped their community in so many other ways – Trevor was in Rotary for 42 years and in Scouts as a leader for 10 – while his wife Sandra has also done an unbelieveable and much appreciated amount of work for this Vintage & Classic.
The other sub-committee members, the local business association and all the tourists they have attracted to the region have also been wonderful.
This is also what South Australia is about. We don’t need the awards, and Trevor & Co. aren’t looking for accolades. They just get on with the job for the benefit of a town and its people, much in the spirit of the benefactors – the hospital and the CFS units – as we have seen, especially of late. Life is just great in McLaren Vale. The tank is always ‘half-full’ in a positive sense; it’s just that these classics that will pass us on April 5 still run on gallons, not litres.