Gift back in Ararat

ARARAT - After the disappointment of the cancellation of last season's Ararat Gift, organisers are thrilled to announce the event will be run again this year.

The Ararat Highland Sports Society has been allocated a December date for the 2012/13 Victorian Athletic League season.

Society president, Joe Perry said the organisation was pleased with the result.

"We tried to get our February date but due to the congested program we weren't able to. Instead we were allotted December 30, which is a Sunday," he said.

Mr Perry said the Ararat Gift would be run two days prior to the traditional New Year's Day gift at Maryborough, which is one of the most popular events on the VAL calendar.

He said he anticipated athletes would travel to the region to participate in both meetings.

"We're hoping to get some decent interstate runners, so hopefully it will be a win-win for both them and us," Mr Perry said.

Mr Perry said the Ararat Highland Sports Society was looking forward to getting back to its regular program, which it has run for years.

This will include the feature race, the Tom McDonald Memorial Gift over 120 metres, along with a 100m women's gift, a 75m gold rush sprint, a 300m women's and veterans' race and 400m and 1600m events.

"It's quite thrilling to have it back again, with all the kerfuffle (over the past two years)," Mr Perry said.

"When they changed our date from February it was virtually disastrous for us."

The 2011/12 Ararat Gift carnival was cancelled following a disagreement between the Ararat Highland Sports Society and the VAL.

Originally scheduled for February 11, 2012 the VAL decided to offer two alternative dates for the Ararat event due to a potential clash with the Ballarat Gift on the same weekend.

The decision was announced after the VAL's annual board meeting in October, 2011.

At the time, Mr Perry told The Ararat Advertiser the changes left the society in limbo.

"We either got a date in November which we had no time to organise for, or one in March which is too close to the Stawell Gift to work," he said.

"So we decided not to run the Gift at all in 2012 and we will hopefully get a more appropriate date in February next year."

It is not the first time the two bodies failed to see eye to eye.

The Ararat Gift was almost cancelled in 2010 after the VAL approached the Ararat organisers and asked them to hold a midweek gift, which would form part of a 'Goldfields Extravaganza' along with the Ballarat and Stawell carnivals.

The Ararat Highland Sports Society refused to run the Gift under those circumstances, which resulted in the VAL board taking control of the event for the first time since 1946.

The Ararat Highland Sports Society is looking forward to putting the past couple of years of unrest behind it and is focusing on preparations for the December carnival.

Secretary, Phil Rodger said the committee had already begun planning and that there would once again be a large emphasis placed on little athletics and highland dancing.

"The fact that it's back on is very good for the town," he said.

"There will be free entry, so it will make a great family day out."

Continued page 47.

Mr Perry said he hoped the event would draw a big crowd of both visitors and local residents.

"We're not the richest gift, but we have a lot of runners who have supported us over the years because we give them a chance at winning. Ararat is an open handicap event, not a closed handicap like Stawell. Everyone has a chance," he said.

"Now we just need some very good calibre runners to come and run."

* To assist with sponsorship of the 2012 Ararat Gift, phone Joe on 5352 2966.

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