ARARAT - Ararat will be thrust into the national spotlight next Sunday when series nine of The Biggest Loser premieres on Network Ten across Australia.
The Biggest Loser: Challenge Australia returns to television screens on Sunday, January 19 at 6.30pm for an action-packed 90 minute episode which will kick off the most challenging task in The Biggest Loser history, as Michelle Bridges, Shannan Ponton and Steve 'The Commando' Willis tackle obesity across the Ararat Rural City.
To mark the occasion Ararat Rural City Council has organised a special launch in the Alexandra Gardens on the night, which will begin at 5pm with healthy activities and information before episode one is shown on a giant screen.
Ararat mayor Paul Hooper said the feeling around the community is a mixture of both excitement and nerves.
"To be honest it is probably a combination of both," he said.
"I've got mixed emotions because on one half with TV ratings being what they are, we may be painted in a bad light initially as fat, country hicks, however I have been lucky enough to see snippets of the final few episodes and it is incredibly positive for the town.
"You see the hard work that the contestants have put in and that reflects the spirit of Ararat as a whole."
Next Sunday's event at the Alexandra Gardens will also be an opportunity for those who have registered to be part of the new pebble program to receive the special device, which played a major role in recording the health progress of Ararat's residents throughout the filming of the series last year. Those who wish to join the pebble program but who have not yet registered, can also do so on the night.
"What the 500-odd people with the pebbles achieved is incredible," Cr Hooper said.
"They should be commended for the leadership they have shown. The determination to make a change in their life is inspirational.
"Let's hope it is a fine night and I encourage everyone to get down to the gardens and watch the premiere together.
"As I said, I doubt it will set the town's behaviour in the best light in that first episode, but let's all start and share the journey together - it is going to be one hell of a ride."
Under the guidance of The Biggest Loser's three trainers, the new series will focus on the people of Ararat as they change their old habits and work hard to achieve their weight loss goals.
At the same time, 14 local residents were selected as town champions and got the opportunity to train and compete in The Biggest Loser house with the aim of raising money to contribute to a healthy living legacy for the community.
The popular program will air Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings on Network Ten and is expected to pull a nation-wide audience in the hundreds of thousands, particularly during the Winter Olympic Games which will screen on Ten from February 6-23.
Cr Hooper said Ararat Rural City staff are continuing to discuss and implement marketing tools to help the region capitalise on the exposure of the program.
"We have stuff going on in the background at the moment but the timing is making it difficult," he said.
"Initially we thought the show would go to air a bit later than January, but with the date being brought forward unexpectedly we have had to move pretty quickly, so things will be ongoing."
A number of strategies are being put in place, including a public relations company being engaged to assist with professional messaging during the entire campaign and to assist in the development of ongoing programs for the entire community and visitors. An online digital media profile is also being developed and will include redesigning the ARC website.
Cr Hooper said it is important that the people of Ararat ride the highs and lows of the coming months together and enjoy what the television publicity will bring.
"I think the community should look to the contestants with absolute pride for what they have achieved," he said.
"The challenge now for Council is to keep that motivation going, work out how to bury the 'AraFat' tag forever and continue to build a much healthier community."