How to win the Birdsville Races (dress-up competition) in 6 steps
The Birdsville Races have long been on the top of my event bucket list after listening to my two uncles share endless tales of their Birdsville pilgrimages (they have done more than 25 tours between them). One of my favourite stories was about the time they won the Birdsville Races. The best-dressed competition, that is! They inspired me to give it a shot myself on my virgin Birdsville tour.
Don’t tell everyone, but this is how to take out the Best Dress Novelty prize at this year’s Birdsville Races.
1. Get into the theme
The Birdsville Races Fashions on the Field novelty category doesn’t have a specific theme per se. The races themselves are the theme! When you’re at the races, you’re surrounded by red dirt, blue skies, thousands of race goers looking for good outback knees-up fun and liquid gold (of the XXXX kind of course). To get started on your Birdsville Races costume idea, make sure it’s colourful, fun and most importantly, that you can wear it all day and into the evening for dancing on top of crushed cans at the Birdsville Hotel.
2. The devil’s in the detail
After much brainstorming and reading up on Birdsville and the history of the Races, I decided to create a new character, the Birdsville Bird. It seemed so obvious, but I spent a bit of time coming up with a detailed back story to go with the outlandish costume that my head costume creator (aka my mum) pulled together from some drawings. I’m talking about feather masks, rainbow layered wings, multi-coloured feather dress, sparkly ‘stalk’ warmers and webbed feet covers.
3. Create a back story
While it’s great to have a crazy costume, if you want to go the whole hog and take out the Birdsville Races, it’s important to create a back story so you have a yarn to tell in the drinks line. Where did you come from? What’s fun or interesting about your background? Is there a song? Can you make up a traditional or interpretive dance?
Want to know the back story for this little bird? Well, the Birdsville Bird flies out to Birdsville on the first weekend of September every year. She whispers to the horses before all the big races and wishes all the punters best of luck as she delivers her ceremonial bird strut dance in the dirt at the Racecourse or on Big Red at sunset. She likes to stay under the stars with the other birds of the sky in the Birdsville Airport. She loves sharing a yarn and can be found tweeting with #birdistheword.
4. Get prepped
As most of the Birdsville Races goers are not from these parts, crowds of ladies and gents got race ready in the Birdsville Caravan Park toilets. As I graced the ladies loos to get feathered up, I got a lot of giggles out of the other ladies who were getting set to impress. Getting ready with the other friendly punters set the tone for the rest of the day.
It was great to see the other outfits (both the costumed and seriously frocked) in Tent City and around the caravan park before walking to the bus for the ride to the races. Others took a more scenic route to the races on a helicopter.
5. Own it
The Fashions on the Field is run on the Saturday of the race meet in the afternoon, but the process begins early. Once you arrive through the big gate, the judges begin to circulate through the crowd to find potential talent for the ‘Best Dressed Man’, ‘Best Dressed Family’, ‘Best Hat’ and of course, the ‘Best Novelty Dressed Individual or Group’.
Don’t let the term ‘Novelty’ fool you. The competition itself is serious business. All nominees nervously stare each other off as they wait to be introduced on stage. With a little help from some adrenalin, as my webbed feet met the platform I took the opportunity to show the crowds the Birdsville Bird Strut, the annual mating dance. Nothing special, really. But it got a good laugh from the crowd and may have helped the Birdsville Bird soar over the singing Elvis, the twice tattooed g-string wearing Snaz and the cast of Sesame Street who truly deserved the prize after sweating it up in onesies all day.
6. From early bird to night owl
If you’re lucky enough to take out the Birdsville Races’ coveted fancy dress award, you have to be up for a long night. The races are loads of fun, but the after-party at the Birdsville Hotel is nothing short of legendary. There’s beer to be drunk, cans to be crushed on the ground and yarns to be spun with new mates. It’s one of the best parts of the races weekend. The Birdsville Bird had a busy celebratory schedule and nearly even got married to Big Bird! #birdistheword
Going to the Birdsville Races? What will you wear to take out Fashions on the Field?
PS. This is where the story started with my uncles rocking it as the Booze Brothers.
PPS. If you’re struggling for ideas of what to wear, you could also try this.
*This post was first published in 2014 and updated in August 2018.