From humble beginnings, the Danseys Pass Trail Ride has developed a lot over the past 20 years.
The annual event, based at Bushy Creek Rd, near Duntroon, now rates as the longest one-day trail ride in Australasia, attracts about 1000 riders every year, and has become Duntroon School’s major annual fundraiser.
But the event meant more than just money to the rural community, Duntroon School principal Mike Turner said.
It brought people together every year for an active challenge, offering 140km of tracks on private high country farms, and helped put Duntroon and Danseys Pass on the map, Mr Turner said.
The trail ride was the brainchild of local farmer and parent Anne-Marie Elliott.
The first ride, held on November 4, 2000, mirrored a similar event in Northland and attracted about 350 riders.
“It started out as one big loop . and they used to take fuel trucks out and have a lunch stop out at a remote paddock,” Duntroon Home and School committee member Kirsty McLachlan said.
Numbers continued to grow, peaking at about 1300, and it now consistently attracted about 1000 riders. The tracks had also changed significantly, completely redesigned every year, to cater for riders of different abilities.
“People do come back year after year because it’s a great ride, it’s a quality event,” Mr Turner said.
Each year, the ride netted a “substantial amount” for the school and its 83 pupils, and it had enabled funding of all sorts of projects, Mr Turner said.
That ranged from upgrading classrooms, the swimming pool and tennis courts, subsidising school camps, upgrading computers and technology, paying for swimming lessons and school ski trips, and for additional teaching funding.
“All that money goes back to the kids and the school – and that’s the driver,” he said.
This year’s event is being held on Saturday, March 15.
It was a major undertaking each year, but the organising committee never struggled to find volunteers because of its wide appeal, Mrs McLachlan said.
“How many fundraisers do you get where the boys get to hoon around on bikes?” Mrs McLachlan said.
About 200 volunteers gave up hundreds of hours every year to help organise the highly-regarded ride.
“It’s blown me away, coming in as the new principal, because of the amount of voluntary hours that go into it,” Mr Turner said.
“You’ve got parents who are cutting away tracks in their spare time, and even just going to meetings to organise what’s happening.”
Without the generosity of landowners, there would not be an event, Mrs McLachlan said.
“None of them have kids at school anymore – so it’s something that’s gone well beyond,” she said.
This term, senior pupils at Duntroon School had been doing research on the history of the trail ride, presenting their findings on posters.
“Being the 20th, that was something that was quite important – finding out where it started, where it all began,” Mr Turner said.