More than just a tourist town

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words & photos Justin Jen­vey

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.

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