Cockroach Racing in Queensland – Unusual Australia Day Celebrations

in Australia, Trip Locations

As the world is winding down after the festive season, Australia is looking forward to its next celebration. The country marks Australia Day on January 26, the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British settlers in 1788. Events take place all around the country, but none are as colorful as Queensland’s cockroach races.

It’s not as glamorous as the Melbourne Cup, but a day at this offbeat sporting event will also cost you far less than taking in Australia’s premier horse race. Spectators at the Story Bridge Hotel swap their champagne for schooners of beer and dress in shorts and thongs, or flip flops if you prefer, rather than cocktail dresses. The races have been run at this pub just outside Brisbane since 1981, a year when legend says Daz, Hawthorne, and Igor, or Gor to his mates, were arguing about whose suburb had the largest cockroaches. Bringing their insects to the pub was the only way to settle the matter, and racing the roaches seemed like the next logical step.

Make sure you’re there at 11 am to get a prime viewing position amongst the 7000 strong crowd. A gold coin donation will secure you a spot in the tiered seating around the track. It might seem strange to start drinking before noon, but this is Australia after all. A few cleansing ales are just what you need to appreciate the spectacle of the sport. The actual races are run on a vacant plot next to the pub. There a four-meter wide square with a circle within it serves as a miniature race track for the cockies. Their stable is a big bucket, and names written on their back help the punters keep an eye on the action. Once the creepy-crawlies take to the track they can cross the circle in any direction they please, and the first to do so is declared the winner.

There are usually 14 races on the day, and you can BYOR (that’s bring your own roach) or buy one at the pub for a fiver. If your six-legged stallion is one of the first three to cross the line you’ll win a trophy and prizes. There’s a charity component to the event as well, with funds raised benefiting Variety, a non-profit group that works tirelessly for sick, disadvantaged, and disabled children.

While most champions are celebrated there’s no joy for the winners of this sporting event. Just like the rest of his competitors he’s unceremoniously sprayed once the race is run. However his name will live on as part of the Cockroach Hall of Fame, alongside other champions like Osama Bin Liner, Cocky ‘N’ Bullwinkle, and Crawl Keating, named after former Prime Minister Paul Keating.

cockroachThe races are the centerpiece of the celebrations but there are still plenty of other activities to entertain locals and tourists alike. The title of Miss Cocky isn’t quite as prestigious as Miss Australia, but it nets the winner a $200 pub voucher, which will go a long way towards the evening’s drinks. The stakes are even higher for the Best Stable Costume Comp. Teams wearing their wackiest getup have the chance to win a $2000 party at the Story Bridge Hotel. There’s a $10 registration fee, but if you take out the title it’s worth the initial outlay. Bands and DJs are also on hand to entertain the masses, and there’s a dunking machine if the Queensland heat gets too much for you.

The party lasts well into the night, as all good Australian parties do. You’re likely to wake with a fuzzy head but also some great memories of one of the most unique sporting events Down Under.

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