Editorial: Burt and Santa - together again

You have to wonder whether we're cultivating a generation of young Southlanders who might grow up faintly associating Santa with motorbikes. In which case, we don't particularly see a problem.

Once again the Santa Parade and the mighty Burt Munro challenge bring their simultaneous satisfactions to a welcoming populace, meshing just a bit in the weekend experience.

On Dasher! On Dancer! On Prancer! On Vixen! On Harley! On Triumph! On Indian! On Rickman!

Rickman? Rickman Motorcycles was established by Derek and Don Rickman and manufactured motorcycles from 1960 through to 1975 and . . . OK, see, we looked it up and pushed it there for the sake of the rhyme. But you get the idea.

Burt and Santa make for a companionable pairing for reasons not the least of which is that both events rely on, and in turn generate, a generosity of spirit that does the community good.

Both also receive tremendous volunteer support. About 1200 people and 70 community groups help put on the parade.

But that's not the half of it. So much of the sense of fun comes through the interaction with the crowd, often estimated at 20,000, who line the route.

As the floats and the music and the performers approach, the kids brighten and the laughter begins. This, in turn, ignites a pretty good case of the feelgoods among the adults present.

And let's not put too much of a gloss on things. A secondary motivation for many an adult is that there are bound to be people you know out there on parade, dressed up and disporting themselves in a way that you might just enjoy critiquing next time your paths cross.

The Munro challenge also connects strongly with Southlanders. It's an event that attracts thousands of motorcyclists, who in turn prove something of an attraction themselves.

You can enjoy them roaring around the streets of Wyndham, the sands of Oreti Beach and the Teretonga track. But it's not just about the high-speed bikers. It's the hard-case ones too.

The ones who look like Marlon Brando, all right, just not so much the young Brando of The Wild One . These guys are more like your latter-career Brando, your The Island of Dr Moreau Brando, when his circumference had increased somewhat.

Even though it's a comparatively new event, the Burt Munro Challenge has developed a nice feel of tradition about it. It seems a comfortable fit for the province.

What's more it is adapting as the need arises. After last year's beach race was cancelled amid awful weather and problematic beach conditions, a Plan B alternative is now in place - a grass track event at the old A & P showgrounds at the north end of Bill Richardson Dr.

By any measure one of the stellar attractions this year will be the presence of New Zealand's fastest drag bike, Ian Wilkins on the "Afterburner" Kawasaki turbo methanol drag bike. Now if Santa ever hooked up his sleigh to that one, he'd be back home so much earlier on Christmas Eve.

The Southland Times