Bright Rod Run
They came from every state in Australia in their shiny carriages, with cameras, deck chairs and eskies and 60's music blaring.
Up until 2012, the small sleepy town of Bright nestled at the base of the Victorian Alps was home to the Bright Rod Run put on by the Northern Suburbs Street Rods.
Bright with is population of @2000 residents that's a popular place for mountain biking, climbing, caving and during winter, skiing and snow boarding, but during one weekend in November, the population doubled as over 2000+ hot rodders (1500+ hot rods, cruisers, customs and classic muscle) descended on the town for five days of cars, cruising and having a good time.
Officially the Run ran on Saturday and Sunday, but the fun started as early as Thursday as the first of the cars arrived to make the most of a 5 day unofficial holiday.
We would arrive early to the rumble of V8's, chrome and people just hanging around admiring the view. From all walks of life, the people came. Local folk in general welcomed the annual event, local businesses doing a roaring trade. According to the local commerce committee, the four (or five) days of reveling and cruising brought a lot of money into the town that helped them survive the slow hot dry summer months. The local servo's had daily top up of their fuel supplies, the pubs, cafe's, supermarkets were constantly overflowing form early morning till late in the evening.
I still remember the first time I took the big silver bird over to the east after an invite from friends Brad and Moira to join there group for their annual pilgrimage to the run. We arrived early Friday and after turning into the main street, I shouted "Stop the car" and with camera in tow I was gone.
It was like walking into the movie set of American Graffiti, Happy Days and Van Nuys Boulevard all in one. There were Rods of every description, old Aussie cruisers, people dressed in 60's gear. Cars were driving past with the "the Best of the 60's Rock'n'Roll" cassette playing loud and proud from the 58 chev. Seriously, I felt like I had died and gone to car heaven. It seemed like an eternity before my bottom jaw finally lifted off the ground, my mouth now full of gravel and water from the now falling rain. I did not know which way to turn so I found shelter under the Pubs verandah and stood there dumb struck till the shock wore off. Eventually with feeling back in my body, I grabbed the camera out of the bag and started walking (in the rain), clicking as I walked.
I soon started seeing umbrellas appearing in convertibles. Now I'm not talking about your ordinary Gucci umbrella here, we are talking the big GARDEN variety. The ones you have on your outdoor setting. Not even the rain was going to stop these people from having a good time. And the rain didn't keep them in the weekend abodes, more and more cars hit the streets, the town center area was a car show of a gleaming cacophony of colour. Candy's, metal flake, pearls and mattes. Windows were left down, custom leather interiors on full display, albeit a little wet.
As Friday became Saturday, the rain had gone, the crowds were running and marking their territory on the side of the roads ready for the cavalcade of muscle and chrome that would pass their vantage spot over a hundred times. Regular visitors had their favorite position that they sat in every year. Along with the chairs would be an esky of nibbles and an esky of drinks.
During the day, friends they see only once a year at the Run would call past and have a yarn, kids would ride their customised push bikes among the rods and cruisers exercising their rights to be apart of the fun too.
and people hanging out of the cars as they cruised, they would park where ever they found space for a while before moving on.
This is how every Saturday should be.
As the evening came, the cruising subsided as people would head out for a meal but then return for the evening session. And the cruising continued till after midnight once again. The streets still lined with people, and the younger generation had parked the cars on the side of the road as it was their turn to hangout with their mates and the "oldies" drank wine in the restaurants and homes.
Come Sunday, cruising started at fist light with the sound of the first V8 warming its vocal chords. Out came the polishing cloths to prep the cars for the Sunday Show. A gathering of the cars of the entrants at a huge open air car show on the towns football oval. Everyone hoping to pick up a trophy or prize, and there were lots of prizes to be had.
This was the time to show what you were made of.
The scene could not have been better for the show. The sun always shone and the sky was always blue on show day. Huddled on the oval with the green hills as a backdrop, what more could you want. Plenty of parking and free to the public. This is what it was all about.
My first year at the run, I spent all day Sunday from 8ish till the end of the show trying to capture each and every car there. I was overwhelmed with the quality and diversity. Coming from Perth where our shows are small, this one day was more than I would normally see in all 4 of Perth's major shows.
And the entrants didn't have to stay all day, some left early to get back to the cruising or to pack up to head home but usually after they had a lunch put only by the Bright Football club and local CWA. Hotdog and a drink for under $8.
And there were plenty of stalls on hand to tempt your money to leave your wallet.
Come late Sunday, the streets re full again with cars and people, late into the evening they cruise.
By now, on my first trip, my mind is exploding with the weekends events, my laptop is bursting at the seams with photos, my camera hasn't left my hand since Friday. It would take me a week to recover my senses.
Until the next year and the one after that up till 2012, when it was announced that that year would be the last Bright Rod Run to be held by the Northern Surburbs Hotrods.
Each year I went, the weekend got bigger and bigger. More people, more great cars. I have so many great memories of those times I managed to get over and spend a few days with mate and cars.
But the final year seemed to be different to all the rest, there was what seemed a dark cloud overhead. It was like people were saying goodbye to a friend for the last time.
There were still so many cars and people having a great time, so what went wrong??
It's a shame the Northern Suburbs Street Rods had to pull the pin after so many years. Although the writing was in the wall.
To me, an outsider, it seemed the town was divided on having the rodders and the event there. Some welcomed them with open arms while others tried to make a quick killing. Without going into great detail, some folks wanted to overcharge the guests that they no longer wanted to come back. Many stayed away from the 2012 final event because they now had to pay for 4 or 5 days accommodation instead of the 2 or 3 days they paid every other year. The official paid entrants no longer got special deals, the council started playing hard ball with more and more road closures and diversions, they called for police reinforcements from neighboring towns and Melbourne while the local officers were taken off duty for the 4 day period of the Run. The roads got closed at 10pm and the streets cleared of people by 11pm. The town no longer wanted to have fun and sadly, the town gave little aid to the event. It had become a political nightmare. The Northern Suburbs had no choice but to call it quits with the town.
Not everyone from the town were happy with the changes. Many businesses and local loved having the Run there and did the right thing, but others had a greater say in disrupting it.
It's a shame really, but life goes on. It was their town, but if you don't work with these types of events, you eventually end up with nothing.
Today, the Northern Suburbs Street Rods have moved to a new town who have welcomed them with open arms. LAKE MULWALA ROD RUN is now in its 4 year and looks to be growing every year.
As for the Bright Rod Run, it's now been taken over by the locals and is held every year on the same weekend as the Northern Suburbs event. With the age limit for cars attending the bright event now lifted to 1977, the 2015 event saw 500+ cars entered.
I am yet to see the Lake Mulwala event yet and I may if time and finances allow might get back to Bright, but for me, Bright is done and dusted. I doubt I will ever feel the euphoria I felt those times I went to Bright. The sights, sounds, the friends and laughs. For me, the old Bright was what I expected a Rod Run to be. But things need to change to enable them to keep evolving. Because events can become stagnant.
Whichever event you may go to, enjoy it for what it is.
As for me, I have over 12,000 images from various Bright Rod Runs to remind me of good times with good people. I may eventually do a gallery of them, but for now, enjoy the few photos I here for you
My 2cents worth.