By Jesse Graham
Residents, emergency services members, car enthusiasts and bushfire survivors came together over the weekend to mark eight years since the Black Saturday bushfires, with a 500-car cruise through the valley.
The annual Black Saturday Remembrance Cruise was held on Saturday, 11 February, drawing about 500 cars for a drive from Yarra Glen, through Toolangi and Chum Creek to Healesville.
After arriving at the Healesville Railway Station, visitors listened to speeches from Healesville CFA’s Ken Glenn, Casey MP Tony Smith and Brother’s Keepers Motorcycle Club’s Greg Chapman.
Organiser, Stacey Kinsmore said this year’s event, which featured a new starting point at the Yarra Glen Racecourse, worked out well and would raise about $7000 for the CFA.
“We had a really good feel to it this year – it went really smoothly,” she said.
She said the cooler temperature after a hot week helped to make the cruise more comfortable, and a police escort to the Healesville-Kinglake Road turn-off made for an easy drive.
“Normally, we’re one of the last to leave, or in the middle … but we were actually able to be the lead car this year, which was lovely.”
During the ceremony in the afternoon, where visitors walk around the labyrinth and place flowers in the centre, the band, Arc de Trio, performed a version of I Am Australian with verses about the fires. Ms Kinsmore said she had received positive feedback from visitors, including from Black Saturday survivors, whose visit to the cruise was their first time taking part in a remembrance event, eight years on.
She said a couple who lost everything in the blazes also attended every year and got in touch.
“They leave feeling kind-of happy, in a certain way – like people actually do care and we haven’t forgotten about them,” she said.
“That was my aim this year, and I think that’s what the event’s gone back to.”
Ms Kinsmore said next year’s cruise would be going ahead, the same as this year’s, and that preparations were being made for the 2019 event to mark the 10th anniversary of the fires.
“Regardless of if it’s going to be the 10th or the 12th (anniversary), it’s always going to – hopefully – run,” she said.