Gift grows bigger in 2017

CHEER: Josh Augustinus, Jack, Ned and Harry O'Farrell enjoy the Gift. Pictures: Samantha Camarri

CHEER: Josh Augustinus, Jack, Ned and Harry O'Farrell enjoy the Gift. Pictures: Samantha Camarri

Thousands continued an Easter tradition when the Stawell Gift ran for the 136th time on Monday.

One of the faces in the crowd was Sandra Nicholson, who returned Central Park for the first time in nearly 50 years to cheer on her granddaughter across the three days.

Mrs Nicholson said her family had a proud history of supporting the Stawell Gift and watching the races each year.

“I do not think my father missed a Gift in his whole life, and his brother was a timekeeper for many years,” he said.

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“We had our own little block where we would always congregate every Easter to watch the races and cheer the runners on.”

The history was passed down the generations, with Mrs Nicholson and her husband Peter returning to the Gift last year to cheer on Zoe Nicholson, who started competing at the event last year.

CHEERING: Sandra and Peter Nicholson enjoy a day out at the Stawell Gift on Monday. Picture: Adam Hill

CHEERING: Sandra and Peter Nicholson enjoy a day out at the Stawell Gift on Monday. Picture: Adam Hill

Even when the family was not at Central Park, Mrs Nicholson said she would always tune in to the coverage to watch the races.

“I was fed the Stawell Gift from the day I was born,” she said.

“We normally watch it if it is on the television or listen on the radio, people knew not to disturb me on Monday afternoon.

“But I still find it exciting to come back here and watch the races and cheer everyone on, especially Zoe.”

Mrs Nicholson said she was proud to see the family involvement continue at the event.

“It is fantastic to see Zoe compete here at such a prestigious event,” she said.

“When she won on Saturday, I almost disgraced myself with my celebrations.

“If I was younger and more agile, It would have been even more interesting to see how I celebrated.

“My family has a proud history of being involved in the Stawell Gift and to see that carry through to the younger generations is great to see for the future.”

Stawell Athletic Club president Neil Blizzard said the event has grown even bigger in 2017.

“Crowd numbers are up by about 10 per cent over the weekend,” he said.

“And we are up more than 10 per cent on athletes this year as well, so it is great to see it expanding and getting more popular.”

Blizzard said the weather played an important part in attracting a big crowd.

“It has been perfect conditions, it is not too hot for the runners or officials,” he said.

SMILES: Anne Fiedler, orange, takes out the Sertori & Co Masters' Handicap 300 metres final at the 2017 Stawell Gift.

SMILES: Anne Fiedler, orange, takes out the Sertori & Co Masters' Handicap 300 metres final at the 2017 Stawell Gift.

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