Gumi Race and Festival

Gumi Race and Festival

Organised entirely by the Central Wagga Lions Club, the inaugural Gumi Raft Race was staged in March 1976, with competitors sailing from Eunony Bridge (Brick Hill Reserve) to the Wiradjuri Reserve.  A total of sixteen rafts took to the water during this first race, and they were to launch a Wagga leisure tradition that would last until 1995.  At the height of its popularity, the Gumi Race drew international competitors, hundreds of entrants and crowds of spectators lined the route. 

The Race was divided into 8 categories including: Junior Single, Junior Team, Women’s Team, Single Event, Gumi Team, Business House Team, Service Club Event and Best Decorated Gumi.  “Gumi” the Pidgin English word for [rubber] inner tube, also became a byword for ingenuity, engineering genius and at times just good old ‘rat cunning’!  Families, friends, neighbours, sporting clubs and business firms were pitted against each other, all in the name of fun.

The World Championship Gumi Race was part of the larger Wagga Wagga Gumi Festival.  The Festival usually ran for a week and featured events included the Gumi Street Parade where Fitzmaurice and Baylis Streets came alive with colour and activity.  Many of the floats and displays were created by Wagga businesses and community groups.  The floats were judged and prizes awarded.  In 1984, prizes were awarded in 7 categories: Best Decorated Gumi, Best School Float, Most Humorous Float, Best Business House Float, Best Out of Town Float, Best Decorated Window Display and Best Sporting Club Float.

Gumi photo competitions were also run, and the Miss Gumi Queen Quest, crowning of the Gumi King and Gumi Festival Balls were also enjoyed by the community.  In 1985, a carnival in Bolton Park was held at the finish of the Street Parade and it featured a Competition Bed Race with a first prize of $75 and a $25 consolation prize.

Other events during the history of the festival were the Gumi Festival Marathon Canoe Race, the Gumi Aquathon at Lake Albert and the Gumi Twilight Tennis Tournament. 

Sadly the days of the Gumi have passed… but they will not be forgotten. The Gumi Race ended due to insurance, environment and health and safety issues.

The name ‘Gumi’ comes from the New Guinea word for rubber.

Rules of the Gumi Race

  1. All craft must be constructed and all entries entered in the spirit of the event
  2. The means of floatation must be at least 80% by inflated inner tubes and that the craft must be manually propelled
  3. Tubes can be held together by any means whatsoever, provided that river water flows directly and freely through, around and/or over them
  4. The Committee reserves the right to reject any entry which they may determine as being offensive because of any sign which may be painted on or carried by any craft
  5. Any hull design may be used so long as, in the opinion of the Committee, the craft is considered reasonably safe
  6. A tow rope shall be attached to all craft at the bow and shall be at least 3.5m long
  7. All crew members must wear a suitable flotation jacket
  8. All crafts must be manually propelled – no motors allowed
  9. No entrant is to assist any other Gumi except if Gumi is in difficulties
  10. In all matters, the decision of the Committee shall be final
  11. Crafts are to be no wider than three metres when transported by road

The Return of the Gumi Race

In 2011 the Gumi Race returned to the Murrumbidgee River where 110 Gumi's of all shapes and sizes "cruised down the river". South Wagga Apex Club, organisers of the event were thrilled with the result and are hopeful that it will bring the same enjoyment and fun to spectators and participants that it experienced in its heyday.

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