It is clear to regular racegoers that the crowd at Oakbank’s Easter Racing Carnival on Monday was well down on previous years.
While officials say it is too early to know the accurate figures, SA police estimate 24,000 patrons attended the event – well down on last year’s 43,000 and a massive drop on the 60,000 which regularly attended the same meeting a few years ago.
The club, which reported a loss of $180,000 last financial year, will again be under financial pressure this year as revenue falls and costs increase.
To that end the club is considering racing on Good Friday and Easter Sunday to join a nationwide trend to avoid racing on Monday public holidays.
Just why people stay away from Monday race meetings is unclear.
The anti-jumps racing lobby say it is a public backlash against animal cruelty, but that doesn’t explain why other Monday meetings across the nation which don’t program jumps races are suffering while the Saturday Oakbank meeting – which contains both a hurdle and steeplechase event – continues to be popular.
It is worth remembering Oakbank is by far the most well attended race meeting in SA.
Crowds might be declining at the Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival but they continue to grow at Anzac Day dawn services.
With the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli being celebrated next year, it doesn’t appear that the interest in Australia’s military history and our desire to pay our respects to our servicemen and women will wane any time soon.
What is changing is the mix of people attending the services.
Once the domain of the returned serviceman, Anzac Day has truly become a day of remembrance for their descendants.
This is a cultural change that must give heart to RSL clubs.
It is a change that is also helped by the growth of the internet and the depth of historical resources relatives now have access to through organisations such as the Australian War Memorial.
In The Courier this week we tell the story of one family who had no idea their uncle was a decorated war hero until they accessed his records online.
His was a generation that didn’t talk about the war so no-one knew he had won a Military Medal for his efforts on the Western Front.
There are probably many untold stories from this time.
Hopefully the centenary will shine a spotlight on this period of history.