BRIGHT, THE PACE TO BE
More than just a tourist town
It’s much more than just a tourist town
FOR as long as Ron Sibley can remember, Bright has always been a popular tourist destination.
The long-time resident first moved to Bright in 1932 aged three and has lived in the town for much of his 86 years.
He moved away for almost 20 years after starting primary school in the Upper Ovens Valley but returned in 1956 as the town’s engineer.
By that time Bright’s reputation as a tourist town had long been established which Ron fondly recalls.
“A lot of the visitors of course went up to the ski fields or Mt Buffalo but at times like summer it was a busy place,” Ron said.
“I know people who were moving into caravans and renting their houses out for a big price particularly during the late 50s and early 60s.”
Bright’s tourism industry was born late in the 19th century when the railway made its way to the town.
The date was October 17, 1890 when the rail reached Bright and it quickly became an integral part of the town, allowing day trips to be organised to and from Bright for pleasure seeking travellers.
Mt Buffalo had not long before been opened for tourism while there were numerous leisure activities to be found in and around Bright itself.
Bright was first settled following the discovery of gold in the Buckland Valley in 1852 and was originally named Morses Creek - Morses Creek runs through the central business district today.
In 1961 Bright was chosen as the administrative home for the Buckland Gold District and by 1972 a flour mill, saw mill and battery had all opened.
They were just some of the town’s key industries prior to tourism which quickly prospered over the opening decades of the 20th century, thanks to the town’s natural beauty.
In 1931, Bright received high praise in the Ideal Town Quest which was conducted by the Sun News Pictorial.
The town was described as the most beautiful town in its division of the competition.
Not forgetting its picturesque landscape of roaming hills and winding rivers, much of Bright’s splendour is attributed to the autumn colours of the European trees planted in the area.
Autumn is home to one of, if not the most popular attraction on Bright’s annual calendar of events.>>
The Bright Autumn Festival which spans 10 days at the end of April, celebrates life in the Alpine High Country.
While the festival is one of the longest running events in Bright, having taken place for the 56th time in 2017, March’s Labour Day long weekend is now also one of the busiest times of the year.
The Brighter Days Festival is bringing more people to town every year thanks to three days of music by some of Australia’s most wellknown acts from decades past, and it’s all for a good cause.
The event raises money for Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood and the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association and has donated over $1.2 million to the two charities in just five years.
This year’s acts included ARIA Hall of Famers Mental and Anything and Joe Camilleri while Daryl Braithwaite and Russell Morris have performed at previous festivals.
Outside of autumn, Bright’s Iconic Rod Run sees more than 1000 classic cars and customs roll into town on the first weekend in November.
The Spring Festival occurs in late October and early November and is similar to the Autumn Festival, attracting 1000s of people over its duration to enjoy the numerous events and activities put on.
Bright’s population also swells over the Christmas and New Year period with families spending their summer holidays swimming in or floating down the Ovens River and riding or walking the local tracks and trails.
There is now only two weekends in the whole year with no event on but despite the packed schedule Brighter Days organiser Jason Reid says it’s what makes the town so special.
“I know people say we have too many festivals and events but they’re the things that keep people busy and keep the town vibrant,” Jason said.
“I think it’s a great thing that we have the opportunity to hold so many different events due to the natural environment and facilities here, things so many other towns don’t have.”
While Ron Sibley saw Bright’s population triple from around 600 in 1956 to 1800 when he retired in 1986 he says the town has seen more change in the last 15 years than anytime previously.
Jason Reid can attest to that, the Bright native has worked in real estate for the past 17 years and says there has been a significant number of people move to Bright in the past 12 months.
“We’re seeing a lot more couples in their late 30s and early 40s with kids moving to town,” Jason said.
“Many are professional people who can work from Bright electronically or they buy a small business or start their own, or are just happy to make the jump and get whatever they can.”
“We’re seeing a lot more couples in their late 30s and early 40s with kids moving to town.” Jason Reid
Luke Batters remembers telling people after high school that he would never work in hospitality.
Fourteen years on and he has spent the past seven years running Food Wine and Friends, a small café in Ireland Street at the top end of Bright, with his wife Hayley.
Prior to that Luke worked in the farming industry as an agronomist for seven years while Hayley also completed a degree in the same field.
However, it was always her dream, to one day own a coffee shop, and in 2001 the couple and their two young children at the time, they now have three, made the switch from the nearby Goulburn Valley.
While there’s the aspect of a relaxed small country town lifestyle, more and more people are moving to Bright because of what the town has to offer outdoors.
Luke wasn’t a cyclist before living in Bright but has taken up mountain biking along with running.
“When we first moved here I had every second day off so in my spare time I started running and got more into mountain biking,” he said.
“What Bright has to offer in terms of those outdoor activities is huge.”
Cycling is without doubt the fastest growing sport or leisure pastime in Bright and Alpine Shire Council is doing all it can to make the town Australia’s premier cycling destination.
Bright hosted the Mountain Bike Australia National Championships for three years from 2014-16.
The mountain bike trails in the hills surrounding the town are endless while Bright is the central location to access all the Alpine Peaks for Tour de France-esque mountain climbs.
The Alpine Audax Classic in January has been going 32 years now and attracts around 2000 riders from across the country while the Tour of Bright in late November is growing in stature as a race now considered a breeding ground for aspiring cyclists hoping to make the professional ranks.
Then there is sky running events like the Buffalo Stampede which was first held in 2014 while the Spartan obstacle race will take place for the second time in November.
Alpine Shire Council has identified Bright’s increasing activity and there will soon be a facility capable of accommodating both small and large scale events.
The town’s sports ground, Bright Pioneer Park, will undergo a $3.74 million redevelopment in the coming year and will be known as the Alpine Events Centre.
With all that and much more happening in Bright, the town and the people in it don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
FRIENDLY FACE / Luke Batters traded a career as an agronomist for the hospitality industry and now runs Food Wine and Friends with his wife Hayley.