Starting gates open as Cairns Amateurs Carnival sets heart of the tropics aflutter

The Far North’s most iconic spring racing carnival is off and racing, as the 59th annual edition of the Carlton Mid Cairns Amateurs Carnival gets underway today with three days of fun, fashion, food and thrilling on-track action.

With more than 14,842 people expected to attend the region’s pinnacle racing and social event, the Cairns Amateurs boasts a lively festival program of diverse functions to be staged at historic Cannon Park Race Course and on the city’s beautiful waterfront, injecting around $4 million into the local economy; an impressive $1,789,154 of which is accounted for in money spent on racegoers’ fashion and grooming at Cairns boutiques and salons.

Festivities culminate in Saturday’s Cairns Amateurs Cup Day, where the who’s who of the region and beyond converge on Cannon Park to compare track notes and indulge in gourmet food and fantastic live entertainment at the premier fixture of Australia’s regional racing calendar, which each year generates around 12,000 overnight stays by visitors to the city.

Queensland Minister for Tourism and Major Events Kate Jones said the Cairns Amateurs Carnival was a premier event in the tropical north.

“The Cairns Amateurs Carnival is an iconic Tropical North Queensland event which offers fun, fashion, glamour, food and entertainment built around two days of horse racing each year,” Ms Jones said.

“Held in Cairns, the carnival boasts the closest proximity of any horse race in the nation to Australia’s tourism jewel, the Great Barrier Reef.

“This is one of many visitor experiences on offer in the region, providing extra reasons, in addition to the carnival, to visit this piece of Queensland paradise.”

The Palaszczuk Government supports the Carlton Mid Cairns Amateurs Carnival through Tourism and Events Queensland as part of the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar, worth more than $600 million in value overall.

The calm waters of the Coral Sea and rainforest-clad mountains beyond provided a spectacular backdrop as the Carnival swung into festival mode this morning at the exclusive waterfront marquee on the Cairns Esplanade Eastern Event Lawn.

Excited guests mingled with racing royalty at The Great Barrier Reef Draw Breakfast, the first official event of 2017 where punters learned which horses would take prime positions to shape the Carnival’s headliner, the $75,000 Carlton Mid Cairns Amateurs Cup.

Today’s program continued to dial up Carnival fever with a stylish morning of fine food and fashion parades at the Cairns Central Ladies High Tea, then in the evening, The Reef Hotel Casino President’s Welcome Cocktail Party, the traditional opening event of Cairns Amateurs.

From tomorrow, racegoers will show off their most fashion-forward ensembles to revel in the glamorous atmosphere of fun in the sun, as the signature Ladies Day program pays homage to women in racing, with Australia’s only female race caller, Victoria Shaw, broadcasting a feature race of all-female jockeys.

Away from the fillies, flamboyant fashion with a tropical twist takes centrefield at the QT Port Douglas Fashions on the Field (FOTF), where contestants don frocks both fabulous and frivolous as they vie for the day’s top sash of Open Ladies Day Champion and prize of two return flights to Singapore.

FOTF judges including popular media personality, Damien Anthony Rossi, and Cairns Amateurs Ambassador, Angela Menz, will look for contestants styled to reflect the event’s theme, “Colours of the Reef”.

The Ladies Day program concludes with the highly anticipated ANZ Cairns Amateurs Ball, the region’s most glamorous social event, with this year’s black-tie gala another showcase event of the Carnival taking place at the waterfront marquee.

New experiences in 2017 include the Cairns Amateurs Fishbowl, offering fine trackside dining in air-conditioned comfort, plus prime viewing of the thoroughbred action for the ultimate raceday experience; while pop-up food festival Meet Eat Repeat serves up gourmet bites trackside from 20 local food vendors.

Cairns Amateurs Carnival CEO Graham Thornton said he welcomed visitors from across the region and further afield to enjoy this year’s refreshed Carnival offering.

“In 2017, we are thrilled to host some of our best-loved events, including the Amateurs Ball, along the picturesque Cairns Esplanade, as we continue to evolve the Carnival program to reflect our uniquely tropical way of life and create an event that is accessible to all, “Mr Thornton said.

“Our program is an exciting blend of traditional and more contemporary events that together position the tropical north as the natural home to the Amateurs, showcasing the region and its people, and importantly, our environment, which we must all contribute to preserving for the future.

“We thank each of our partners, as well as the people of the far north, for their contribution to the continued success of Cairns Amateurs, and wish every one of our guests a memorable Carnival experience,” he said.

Early this morning, Cairns Esplanade hosted a traditional smoking ceremony to celebrate the launch of the Carnival’s involvement with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef  – a new fundraising initiative highlighting the importance of preserving the region’s most precious natural asset, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

The launch event saw the unveiling of a bespoke sculpture by acclaimed local Indigenous artist Brian Robinson, renowned for his iconic stainless steel Woven Fish installed above the Lagoon that has become synonymous with the region, as well as one of Australia’s most memorable works of public art.

“By supporting Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, we have been able to leverage the Carnival’s long-standing position as one of the most significant fixtures of the region’s social calendar to work towards a sustainable future, not only for our event, but for the Reef itself,” Mr Thornton said.

 For further information and to buy tickets, click here Cairns Amateurs Carnival Tickets.