Apr 07, 2019

Bikes, bulls, bog snorkelling and butts – 25 years of Dirt n Dust

Bikes, bulls, bog snorkelling and butts – 25 years of Dirt n Dust

Margie Ryder admits a few too many beers might have been consumed when the idea for a triathlon in Julia Creek was first proposed.

Twenty-five years later, the triathlon has morphed into the annual Dirt n Dust Festival, which kicks off at noon on Friday, and has become a major event on the Queensland social calendar.

“When it started in 1994, we had 13 competitors and a budget of $5000,” Cr Ryder said.

“This year we have over 300 competitors and a budget of $700,000.”

While she is now a councillor in Townsville, Cr Ryder’s events company is heavily involved with the event and she returns every year.

Not surprisingly, she often reflects on how a simple idea can sometimes lead to great things.


Margie Ryder.

“My husband and I were managing the Town and Country Club in Julia Creek at the time and we had a heap of people in the bar one night who might have had a bit too much to drink,” Cr Ryder recalls.

“Someone said, ‘let’s do something to put Julia Creek on the map’, and a triathlon was suggested.

“Initially we all thought, ‘that’s a stupid idea’, but then we thought about it a bit more and the event just evolved.”

While a triathlon, race meeting and bull riding are highlights of the festival, some more left-of-centre events also attract plenty of interest.

Among them is the bog snorkelling event and Australia’s “best butt competition”.

Cr Ryder still chuckles when she remembers how the competition to decide who had the best backside started.

“One year we had a Mental As Anything concert, but someone literally forgot to fill up the generator (and there was a power outage),” she said.

“So we had to quickly find something to fill the gap and I suggested we run a ‘best butt’ competition.

“That became viral and it’s now a huge part of the festival.”

And, as the festival website suggests, it’s all great entertainment, even though it might not be completely politically correct.

“It’s all about having good, clean, outrageous fun. Contestants are required to remain fully clothed during the competition and put all of their efforts into their tush dancing (and) crowd-pleasing antics.”

Cr Ryder said she had no doubt the event would grow into the success that is has become.

“I knew back then that this was the start of something huge,” she said.

“It’s a huge event now and everyone should be very proud of what we have achieved.

“I’ve got no doubt that in 25 years we’ll be celebrating our 50th anniversary.”

  • Full festival details HERE

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