There’s almost nobody in Australia that hasn’t been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, including the ASRF. 

To have to pull the pin on the Goulburn Regional Nationals after years of planning was understandably painful for all of those involved. While the prompt action of the committee saved the Federation thousands of dollars in cancellation costs, there was little consolation for entrants, sponsors and traders who looked forward to participating in the event and savouring what this historic regional city has to offer. Of course the local community suffered as well, already having enjoyed the colour and the camaraderie of Aussie hot rodders during previous events and eager for more.

We chatted to ACT Divisional Director, Alan Cooper, about the Nats that never was…

Q. With regards to planning, there’s as much goes into a Regional Nats as the bi-annual Nationals, how long has the Goulburn event been in the making?

Regional Nationals were are an ‘Off Year’ event that followed on from the Un-Nationals concept. They are less formal and run under a different MOU.

The work, however, is somewhat similar to a full Nationals usually has a three year planning window. Goulburn was slightly less, but initial planning started around September 2017.

Q. It wouldn’t be the first time a major ASRF event has been held at Goulburn, in what other years has the town hosted both Regional Nats and National events? Was anyone in the current council (and/or Chamber of Commerce) familiar with these past events?

Goulburn has hosted two Full Nationals, 2007 and 2009, as well as a state rod run in 2010. There have also been many smaller events over the years.

Goulburn always wanted a return hot rod event and the Goulburn Tourism campaign, led by Jacki Weatherstone, has advertised in rod magazines for many years. We were warmly welcomed and a great working relationship with Goulburn Mulwaree Council developed immediately.

Q. Geographically, Goulburn is well positioned for many east coast-based members. What other qualities set Goulburn apart from others as an excellent destination for entrants?

Yes, Goulburn is well placed when viewed from an East Coast perspective and is an easy freeway drive from all east coast capitals.

It is a good sized city with excellent amenities and infrastructure. The main street is very suitable for a street cruise and party. There are plenty of eateries and some nice local tourist drives. Above all, Goulburn citizens like hosting rodding events. The ASRF and members are very welcome.

Q. Things took a downward turn pretty quickly as COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 12. Were there any reservations about running of the event in the few weeks leading up to this date?

The thought had occurred earlier but I had hoped that we would not be as affected as we were.

When I saw the pandemic announced I began to realise that we could be affected should the situation worsen. So, the following morning, after much though through the night, I called a couple of the ASRF Directors to discuss my concerns. By lunchtime on Friday the 13th, I had called the Mayor’s office, Goulburn Tourism, our Chairman and all Directors. The event was officially cancelled from that time. 

Disbelief was the first reaction but everyone understood and was very supportive.

Our merchandise supplier, Lifestyle Australia, had not quite ordered our tee shirts but the entrant number plates were ordered and could not be cancelled.

Q. Once the choice was made to cancel the event, there were so many things to do in such a short time. How do you prioritise under such extraordinary circumstances?

Beyond health concerns were the matters of minimising loss and giving as much notice as possible to all concerned.

Q. Most of those planning to attend the event as entrants, traders and sponsors recognise that the Federation’s hands were tied as far as proceeding with the event. What was some of the feedback you received?

Everyone, though disappointed, was very supportive. Many said that it had occurred to them that this may happen.

Q. Being able to call off the event a month prior enabled many attendees to cancel accommodation and other travel plans and save money in most cases. It would have also assisted the ASRF in limiting its financial commitment as well.  

Yes, people appreciated the early decision and did have more time to adjust their plans. As it turned out, we would have had the decision made for us within 10 days. Had we waited, recovery would have been a lot worse.

Q. It must have been terribly frustrating for the Nats committee to be put in this circumstance after so much planning? How’s everyone managing?

The committee members worked hard to bring off a great event and were in disbelief at first but adjusted very quickly and got on with the huge task of cancelling services and assessing what could be salvaged and what could not.

Goulburn Council staff had worked very hard in organising all the local infrastructure arrangements and were very disappointed as well.

So much effort all round but no event. That was hard to take and still is.

Q. How did the ASRF manage the refund process?

Refunding sponsors and traders was commenced immediately and planning how to refund entrants was discussed.

In the end, after much discussion with the ASRF accountant, Head Office staff and committee members, it was decided that the entrant number plates would be mailed to all. This will be done at minimum cost and by committee volunteers.  

Head Office staff are working through sending out refunds now and we are grateful for their efforts.

The amount of $25 is being deducted from refunds, which covers the cost of the plate, postage and additional packing materials. Many who have called us have encouraged us and have said that they are happy to receive a memento of the event. This process has just begun with the hand packing of the first 50 plates over the last two days.

We wish Albury 2021 all the best.

Alan Cooper
ASRF ACT Divisional Director