By Cr Trent Sullivan
January is a whirlwind of great events and community activity.
Locals and visitors are enjoying the beaches, the bay, and our array of high-class dining venues.
It’s also festival season, which attracts tens of thousands more people to region, supporting more than 6400 jobs in our tourism and hospitality sector alone.
We’ve enjoyed mussels in Portarlington, the best food and drinks in Johnstone Park, and are now gearing up for the two titans of our January calendar.
The Festival of Sails and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race are back, as strong as ever, and council is proud to be a supporter of both events.
The Festival of Sails combines elite level competition with a buzzing mix of music, entertainment, family activities and markets along the foreshore.
There is nothing better than checking out the action on the water, while enjoying the free entertainment and all of the hospitality on offer.
The reputation of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race grows each year, and it continues to be well supported by residents and visitors alike.
One of the great features of the now five-day festival is the opportunities it provides for bike riders of all ages to take part.
The free Family Ride, starting and finishing along the Waterfront this evening, allows kids to ride the same closing stretch as the elite cyclists, and to dream of crossing the finishing line in the big race.
Tackling the same roads as the pros – past the same scenic landmarks and gathered crowds – is also for the grown-ups.
The People’s Ride tomorrow is a highlight for many local cyclists, with the two courses allowing people with varying ability and experience levels the chance to be part of the action.
I’m looking forward to joining my fellow councillors, Bruce Harwood and Eddy Kontelj, and scores of other community members for a fantastic ride across our great city.
We often talk about the economic impact of our major events.
For example, last year the Festival of Sails was worth $11.6 million, and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race contributed more than $10.7m to our regional economy.
And it is important we do.
Council provides financial and in-kind sponsorship to support our diverse major events calendar ($1.64 million to 18 events in 2022-23), so we need to understand the benefits that flow to our local businesses.
These events generated more than $81 million in expenditure, supporting the equivalent of an estimated 650 full-time jobs.
What is harder to specifically pinpoint is the social dividend that these major events deliver, which is arguably just as important.
With more than 100,000 people along the Waterfront, and thousands spread across other townships and popular parts of the road race route, our community comes together for these annual events.
And with images beamed to television audiences across the country and the globe, the community spirit and camaraderie in Geelong is on display for all to see.
The fun and enjoyment on offer for spectators is free, and the resulting publicity is priceless.