What Penny, Draws a Crowd ? ...

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A Racing Penny. A Day at the Penny Farthing Championships

In a small historic village, in Tasmania, Australia, crowds gathered for a unique occasion. The first indication that something was going on, were the huge number of people resplendent in clothes that hailed to times over 100 years ago. Bunting lined the streets and music accompanied a festive air. A PA system, carried a lively banter about individuals doing unusual things and then it all became clear. Down the street were people 2.5m in the air travelling slowly towards a Start/Finish Banner. It was the first race of the day. A Slow Race on Penny Farthings!

Once warmed up, the challenges increased. A Slalom Race first. Against the clock! The riders however, rose to the challenge and some completed a track some 70m long with 10 obstacles, in around 20 seconds! One unfortunate, did hit the deck but fortunately got to walk away.

The appetite had been whetted. Crowds lined the streets everywhere. Flags, cameras, and costumes could be seen everywhere. The next events.... The Penny Farthing Races, including the National Championship Final. Yes they race these things in National competitions! And I know what you are thinking... how fast can you go on one of these things? Well prepare to be surprised.

A circuit comprising a lap of the village, was laid out. Outside the historic buildings, crowds were amassed behind bunting lines and fences. A Jazz Band played in the backyard close by. The PA introduced the riders. And the atmosphere buzzed. Two huge huge motorcycles preceeded the start of each race, to run obligatory safety checks and clear the streets and they were off. The buzz turned to a roar as riders ascended their precarious mounts and took off down a back street for the first of several laps. And in no time they were back, racing at speeds of up 50km/hour! Yes 50!

At the Clarendon Arms Pub, they took the bell for the final lap and pushed harder. There were a few who came horribly close to crashing, as wheels caught in gutter lines, but fortunately escaped, before hammering home to the finish and the roaring support of the crowd.

For all the competition, it was the spirit of the day that surpassed all others. Races were competitive, but camaraderie was stronger. Families were a huge part of the day and one in particular, were represented in the children's, the adults and the seniors races, three generations. The costumes were celebrated and deservedly so, with awards. All day, the streets were filled with friendly smiles, welcome, music and laughter. And they do it all again next year! Put it on your calendar!

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