Sunday saw the annual Heritage Drive depart Grenfell on its historical journey to Gulgong.
This fantastic event has been held every year now since 2000 and the sight of the wagons arriving or leaving never seems to lose its allure for those who appreciate the effort of all the participants and enjoy being transported back to an earlier time when the pace of life was a little more leisurely.
A long line of wagons and horsemen left the showground on Sunday morning to continue the great tradition that is now a permanent fixture of both towns’ Henry Lawson Festivals.
The Drive will see a large group of horse-drawn wagons and support vehicles travel along an historic route through the central west that will pass through many towns such as Nyrang Creek, Toogong, Manildra, Molong, Euchareena, Stuart Town, Wellington, Combabella and Gollan Hall before arriving in Gulgong.
The journey will then culminate by taking pride of place at the head of this year’s Gulgong Henry Lawson Festival Parade.
In fact the history of the Drive is closely associated with Henry Lawson and the Festivals that take place annually on the June long weekend in both of the “Lawson” towns of Grenfell and Gulgong.
The Drive came about from a desire by Heritage Harness enthusiasts in both towns to celebrate Henry Lawson and his works with something that would benefit not only Grenfell and Gulgong but also a lot of smaller historical towns in between.
Thus the idea for a heritage Drive between the two towns that would consist of heritage wagons and horsemen was born.
As history would have it, however, the Drive has not only resulted in advantageous publicity across Australia for both Grenfell and Gulgong. The Drive has also been responsible for a lot of fundraisers along the way that go towards the upkeep and maintenance of many of the small community halls in outlying districts and towns along the route of the Drive.
In fact it has been said that many of these little community halls would be a lot worse off if not for the advent of this event.
Another beneficial outcome of the Drive has also seen a lot of schools being visited by the Drive each year. It has already become a tradition with the students of those schools to welcome the Drive into their midst and see history first hand.
It gives the staff and students a first-hand glimpse of what the conditions must have been like for the early pioneers in this part of the country.
The concept from the beginning was to alternate the route each year so that the first year saw the Drive travel from Grenfell to Gulgong and the following year in the opposite direction. And, so it is, that this year we again see the wagons and riders traveling in the Grenfell to Gulgong direction.
However, one small downside to the narrative is that these days the event consists largely of participants from the Gulgong Heritage Harness Association, as involvement from Grenfell enthusiasts has decreased gradually each year despite the benefits derived in terms of goodwill and publicity from this unique Australian event.
Anyway, all the hard work has been done, the horses have been thoroughly checked by the vet, the wagons have been declared shipshape and the Drive has departed on its annual pilgrimage. After two days camped at the Grenfell Showground, where enthusiasts from all over the state gathered in eager anticipation, this year’s Drive has finally begun.