MOUNT COOROORA is the scene of one of the most gruelling and challenging athletic events Australia has to offer, and continues to attract competitors from around the world.
As part of Pomona’s King of the Mountain festival, Sunday, July 23 marks the 39th anniversary of the notoriously steep 4.2km Bendigo Bank ‘King of the Mountain Challenge’.
While the festival has now become a hallmark local event for the Noosa hinterland town of Pomona, (Queensland), its origins are typical of a dare between mates at the local watering hole. In 1958, at the bar of the old Railway Hotel, local footballer and railway porter, Bruce Samuels casually claimed he ran to the top of Mount Cooroora in under an hour. His claim was met with jeers and scepticism, and hotel patrons were quick to raise the challenge of doing it again to an audience. The run was scheduled for March 22, 1958, and eager and confident punters placed their bets on a failed attempt.
Astonished locals saw Samuels return in just 40 minutes to collect his hundred pound wager. His feat saw him become the town hero, and he was bestowed with the nicknamed ‘Hilary’ Samuels. Fittingly, his achievement became the stuff of legends and it was recorded on the wall of the hotel bar.
In 1959, this attracted the attention of 21-year-old hotel punter Barry Webb, from Brisbane, who declared that he could beat Samuel’s time, and the race was set for the following Saturday. Its small town location required little publicity to attract a sizeable crowd of spectators keen to compare the outcome.
With a time of 35 minutes, Webb became the recipient of about 25 shillings from the passing around of the hat. A gracious Samuel’s was quick to congratulate Webb, but was determined to reclaim his title. He began training for a re-match scheduled for June 27 1959, and the rest, as they say, is history. The legendary Pomona King of the Mountain race was born.
A project of The Cooroy and Pomona Lion’s Club since 1979, the community-orientated King of the Mountain Festival continues to celebrate the great race and the achievements of its competitors. Bringing together a host of attractions and event experiences, competitors and spectators alike can look forward to another all-day, fun-filled event which includes other family-friendly races, heritage markets, antiques fair, animal farm, amusement rides, local cuisine and live music — all within the beautiful hinterland setting of Pomona.
Festivities will begin early with the arrival of many different car clubs showing off their classic vehicles in the lead up to the big race at 2.30pm. Local businesses are also geared-up to offer some country hospitality, and celebrations will continue afterwards and into the evening with live music and free entertainment.
For more information on the festival visit the website at www.kingofthemountain.com.au