Yass' popular Billy Cart Derby cancelled due to drought

The Billy Cart Derby in Yass has been running for eight years, but won't go ahead in 2019 due to the drought. Photo: RS Williams
The Billy Cart Derby in Yass has been running for eight years, but won't go ahead in 2019 due to the drought. Photo: RS Williams

The annual Billy Cart Derby in Yass has been cancelled three weeks out, with organisers unable to get hay bales for the safety barrier due to drought.

Between 950 to 1000 hay bales are laid down Rossi Street for the popular race, which attracts an audience of about 10,000 as part of the Classic Yass car show on November 2.

Yass Rotary Club sources the bales between Rye Park and Boorowa but this year's crops aren't ready, club member and local grazier Sam Bucknell said.

"The crop is on a knife's edge. You'd nearly have to cut it now, which is too early, to have it ready in time," he said.

Organisers also won't risk rain destroying the hay bales for farmers who need the feed.

"We don't feel we're in a position as a service organisation to do that, not when farmers are crying out for it. This is a real sign of the times," Mr Bucknell said.

Even if organisers could get their hands on hay bales, they'd be looking at a cost of about $30 each, $30,000 total, Mr Bucknell said.

"Ten years ago you could get a bale for $2," he said.

The club also has to pay for freight, a PA system and some of the insurance with Yass Valley Council.

Rotary's barbecue at Classic Yass and race registrations cover some costs but not all. Registration only raised $385 last year, according to club member and local accountant Alfred McCarthy.

"The club doesn't make any money from the Billy Cart Derby," Mr Bucknell said.

Yass was unsuccessful in getting the federal government's latest round of $1 million in drought fundingbecause it wasn't declared as eligible by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

The club had tried temporary traffic barriers, but the billy carts would roll if their wheels hit the bottom of the barrier, Mr Bucknell said.

They also considered tyres, but decided it was too hard to move the number of tyres needed in time.

It takes the club two and a half days currently to transport, unload and return the hay bales to a farmer.

It was a "very hard decision for the club to make," Mr Bucknell said.

"It was something we felt very proud about providing for the community."

Classic Yass organisers said they were shocked to hear the race was cancelled but understood the challenges Yass Rotary faced.

"The Billy Cart Derby has been a support event at Classic Yass now for a good many years and with three weeks to go, we just don't have time to help Rotary Club salvage the race," Classic Yass organiser Keiran Laurent said.

"Radio and print media ads have already been produced and we're now scrambling to have those redone.

"But I understand the position the Rotary Club finds themselves in. Unfortunately, the drought appears to have claimed another scalp.

"On a very positive note, Classic Yass is still on and entries for the classic cars are pouring in."

There will also be the vintage fashion parade, live music and dance, markets and food.

Yass Rotary will still have its barbecue and bouncing castle at Classic Yass in Banjo Patterson Park.

If conditions such as the price of hay bales improve in the future, Yass Rotary will consider running the Billy Cart Derby again, Mr Bucknell said.

The club had considered running another event, such as a hospital bed race or wheelbarrow challenge, "but it's not likely we'll be able to organise it in time for this year," Mr Bucknell said.

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