Each year for two days in August, the city of Charleville, Australia celebrates a festival that at first seems more like it belongs in the mid-west of the United States. A closer inspection, however, will reveal that it is uniquely Australian. This is the Charleville Camel, Donkey and Yabbie Race Festival, and it is an event that highlights many aspects of outback living and culture.
The festival begins with the Bush Ball. This is a night-before pre-party filled with beer drinking, BBQing and country and western dancing and music. The day after, assuming you’ve managed to wake up on time after the first night, is filled with races of all sorts and more of the drink and food that one might expect during a festival.
The races consist of those involving, as the festival’s title suggests, camels, donkeys and yabbies. The camel races aren’t as exciting as you might first think. They happen to be temperamental animals with a mind of their own. Some try to race, but many others simply prefer to lie down and wait the day out. The donkeys are slightly more cooperative and the nature of these races is that anyone can jump on the back of a donkey, whether sober or otherwise, and try to live out their dreams of being a jockey.
And finally come the yabbie races. If you don’t know what a yabbie is, it’s a mostly aquatic animal that doesn’t do so well on dry land. These things get auctioned off to their new “owners” and placed on a piece of canvas, in the center. The first one to make it off the edge is the winner. Much like the camels, the yabbies often refuse to go anywhere, so the race can take some time to complete. Luckily, the canvas is small so these poor confused creatures don’t have far to go. If you’re the owner of the winning yabbie, you get the prize. The yabbies, however, get nothing but the BBQ treatment, whether winners or losers.
Each of the races can be bet on, if you’re feeling lucky. The festival winds up with a bull riding competition and yet another country and western-styled party. The next day, the whole thing happens all over again.
This is one festival that shows the lifestyle of a not-often seen portion of Australian culture. It is an event for those that want to get a taste of the outback while having fun, meeting friendly people and getting more than their fill of beer and food.