After stepping down from their responsibilities with Cairns Jockey Club last November, award-winning duo, Graham Thornton and Christina Buddle are pleased to continue their working relationship while focusing their energies into producing their seventh Cairns Amateurs Carnival.
With six Cairns Amateurs Carnivals under their belt as well as countless Cairns Jockey Club race meets, Thornton as CEO and Buddle as Event Manager agree their track record and passion for what they do underpins their success which has so far bagged them a prestigious list of awards including – the Clubs Queensland Award for Best Small Social Club in Queensland announced in March, a silver (adding to another silver and bronze) in Queensland Tourism Awards 2015, induction into the TTNQ Hall of Fame for winning Best Major Festival in three consecutive years 2015, Best Tourism Event and Best Community Event for two years running at the Australian Event Awards.
Since 2010 Thornton and Buddle have thrown themselves into producing the Cairns Amateurs Carnival with passion and gusto and this year’s two-day racing program (9 and 10 September) will be no exception. In conjunction with Cairns Amateurs’ committee and marketing team, the pair, who think and operate like clockwork, are working on a program that has been created to take the region’s number one social event to a whole new level.
“We only have to look at each other to know what the other is thinking and what needs to be done. I recall in our first year, Christina carrying a trestle table above her head to assist in selling more drink tickets – to keep people happy – and that’s been our mantra from the start. We work tirelessly as a small team to give the best that we can to make the customer’s experience truly special,” said Mr Thornton.
In total the program comprises 14 individual events, five of which are innovative newcomers and details of which will be released in coming weeks.
As the CEO of Cairns Amateurs Carnival, Mr Thornton said that each year the committee reevaluates what was good, what could be improved and what is needed when it comes to planning the next year’s event.
“Our strategy is committed and it is working. We have witnessed a steady increase in engagement and numbers of racegoers with each year. In 2015 the Carnival recorded 20,000 people through the gates at Cannon Park over the two-day carnival with an approximate economic impact of $20 million and this year is already looking like it will break all previous records while focusing the spotlight on our Tropical North Queensland region.
Thornton says the Cairns Amateurs Carnival is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ approach with racegoers spanning several demographics, geographies and demanding different wants and needs.
“To capture our market, we have to tailor our Carnival to suit. It is complex but in the digital age, which we are embracing, it has become easier to do so,” he said.
The Cairns Amateurs Carnival is now in its 58th year. It was created to bring the country to the city and develop business ties over a relaxing environment. Culturally, the racing fashion and Fashion on the Field competition is a shining highlight.
“Looking back at old imagery, many a statesman and their partners throughout the decades, and the changing fashion trends is a historical snapshot of the region and our times. It is indeed a great accomplishment to be at the helm of an event approaching its sixth decade – and while we pride ourselves with innovation and changes to keep the carnival fresh and attract visitation to the region, it would be nothing without the visitors, our steadfast supporters and the locals that bring all the colour and flavour to the event. This is what our visitors come to see. They can go to any race day around the country, but we have something special here, not only do we have one of the best backyards in the world, with two World Heritage listed areas, we provide an intimate insight in to a region letting its hair down in spectacular style,” he said.
The first official event on the new program for 2016 is the Member’s AGM Cocktail Party on Thursday, 7 July at the Sister Cities Lawn on Cairns Esplanade. This event is normally the bookend to the program, traditionally held on the Sunday morning following the two-day racing program. This event is free of charge to members and will provide a welcome social interaction while hearing first-hand about new developments.
Cairns Amateurs Carnival will be held from Thursday 8 September to Saturday 10 September at Cannon Park Race Course, Cairns. The first official event on the new program for 2016 is the Member’s AGM Cocktail Party on Thursday, 7 July at the Sister Cities Lawn on Cairns Esplanade. This event is normally the bookend to the program, traditionally held on the Sunday morning following the two-day racing program. This event is free of charge to members and will provide a welcome social interaction while hearing first hand about new developments.