A WEEK after a 60 minute Toyota Ironman Port Macquarie TV special aired on 7mate to an audience of thousands, the full impact of the event is still being assessed.
From a local perspective, organisers and competitors have been quick to praise the efforts of the 2,100+ volunteers. Local Organising Committee chairman, Mike Reid, couldn't speak highly enough of the Ironman volunteers.
“The race just does not happen without them - they are gold and work tirelessly to get it done,” Mike said.
“The way they go about their jobs on race day is just amazing. They never fail to impress us in what they do.”
On May 14, the Courier ran the story of Andrew Meenahan’s struggle to finish his first Ironman event. He was full of praise for the positive and endearing community spirit evident on the day.
“From Port Macquarie to the backroads of Dunbogan people were friendly, supportive and encouraging,” Andrew said.
“I had been warned that many residents resented the annual Ironman event because of the inconvenience of road closures and the disruption to normal life but this was not my experience.
“As we rode through Lake Cathie, Bonny Hills, North Haven, Laurieton and Dunbogan, people clapped and cheered for hours.
“Welcome to the Camden Haven” one lady yelled.”
The local sporting clubs who ran aid stations along the route did a sterling job. They enjoy their participation in the event and also benefit from the donation provided to their club by the organising committee. This year members of local surf clubs, plus AFL, rugby league and football clubs were amongst the 200 odd volunteers to help out in the Camden Haven area on the day.
This year’s spectator ‘hot spots’ in North Haven, Laurieton and Dunbogan allowed spectators to quickly find the best viewing points. The fun and entertainment at these locations only added to the carnival atmosphere for spectators and competitors.
The increase in visitor traffic to the area is probably the key flow on benefit for local businesses. This year participants came from 36 different nationalities and included 600 first time racers.
“A fair proportion of those 600 first timers would also be first time visitors to the region,” Mike Reid said.
The Camden Haven region is heavily promoted during key race events over the weekend, including the welcome dinner and awards ceremony. Organisers say they try to give these events a distinctly “Hastings flavour”.
“We ask participants to make their way down to the Camden Haven region and to show their loved ones the full race route so they’re aware of where the race is run,” Mike Reid explained.
“Stopping to support the businesses they pass is part of the pre-race and post-race process for the competitors, although they probably don’t make a song and a dance about it.”
North Haven restaurateur Brendon Lynch from Oasis by the River has turned the race into a positive and productive experience.
“We had a packed house for our 5-course degustation dinner on the Thursday night, which is now part of the official Ironman calendar of events,” Brendon explained.
“On race day we went through seven kilograms of coffee beans and both the restaurant and our stall across the road at the spectator hot spot were flat out all day.”
The business also benefits from ongoing exposure via the Ironman website and Facebook page.
“The Facebook page alone has over 438,000 Likes.”
Of course, the other alternative for those whose business is located on or near the race route is to take the day off. Karyn Bartholomaeus from The Fat Fish Beachfront Bistro at Bonny Hills, took the opportunity to head to the Hunter Valley to celebrate her birthday.
“My birthday fell on race day, so I thought it was a sign,” Karyn said.
As someone who can probably count the number of days off she has had in the last five years on one hand, it was a wise move on her behalf.
According to event spokesperson Amy Williams, the Camden Haven region is also promoted to the wider global Ironman database as a desirable destination and area to visit.
“We worked with local business on the Ironman legends expo, the free water taxi service and the bike course bus tours,” Amy explained.
Advertising on local radio and in print media, posters and flyers also contributes to the Camden Haven economy.
The Camden Haven Chamber of Commerce, Tourism and Industry are pleased with the number of people connected to the race who called in to the iKew visitor information centre.
“It did generate interest in the place,” centre coordinator, Garry Walsh said.
“We had two busloads of participants and spectators come through and sales during the period including Easter were very good.”