GET READY: Mt Cooroora, home of the Pomona King of the Mountain race.
GET READY: Mt Cooroora, home of the Pomona King of the Mountain race. John McCutcheon

Countdown on to King of the Mountain

THE Bendigo Bank will sponsor this year's international King of the Mountain Challenge race at Pomona.

Sunday, July 24, marks the 38th anniversary of the famously challenging contest and locals and visitors to the region can again look forward to a huge variety of attractions.

A project of The Cooroy and Pomona Lion's Club, the King of the Mountain Festival offers something for everyone and includes other family-friendly races, heritage markets, antiques fair, amusement rides, skate competition, local cuisine and live music.

Further attractions include an animal farm, stunt motor bikes and side show alley.

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. Celebrations will continue afterwards and into the evening with live music and free entertainment.

How it all started

While the festival has now become a hallmark event for Pomona, 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, his achievement 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 a 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 Samuels was quick to congratulate Webb, but 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.

Despite a 20-year hiatus until its resurrection by the Cooroy Pomona Lions Club in 1979, the community orientated King of the Mountain Festival continues to celebrate the great race and the achievements of its competitors.

While the track is somewhat improved from the days of old, its treacherous climb and descent continues to attract athletes from around the world.

Increasing patronage and corporate participation and sponsorship of the community-focused event has seen its inclusions occur over multiple days to accommodate its broad appeal.

There was a great turnout in the 10th annual Poker Run on July 3, giving motor cycle enthusiasts the chance to raise money for local Lions' charities while enjoying a scenic ride through the hinterland.

Aimed at future King of the Mountain champions, next Saturday, July 23, sees the inaugural Zinc 96.1FM Prince and Princess race for children aged 9-13 years.

For more information visit www.kingofthemountain.com.au

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