City slickers go outback.

Roma is a far cry from the usual dusty western Qld race meet. The bar had paid staff and a slick ticket system. The music had a bass line and was hardly country. But that didn’t deter hordes of city folk looking for a dinky-di outback experience last Saturday. At just five hours from Brisbane, the races attracted about 8000 people from east and west Qld.

Toowoomba trainer Michael Nolan’s Blow A Kiss took home the cup but the lightning, rain and fashion stakes competed with the horses for attention. A sign at the edge of the track described the situation. “This is a race meet (believe it or not). Please be considerate of jockeys and horses – keep track clear of rubbish and party animals,” it read.

The horses were the main attraction for Charleville racing stalwart Eric Fraser who lined the track for every race. He said he had always loved the racing at Bassett park. It’s a chance for the western horses to try their luck against steeds from the east.

For Toowoomba local Jake Ward it was a different location to celebrate his 19th birthday. He was camping with mates at the tent city adjoining the track and thought the races were an outback experience. “It’s something different. Why not? We’ll give anything a go,” he said.

The fashion tent pulled a sizeable crowd as transvestites Lidia Box and Voille La Vont lent a caustic note to the compering. Not all were pleased with the crude commentary. An older lady was moved to tears by the lewd sexual jokes. Big-breasted women copped some flak.

The rest thought the Brisbane-based broads were a hoot. Charleville judge Carmel Hunter said it was a tough field as usual. Quilpie girl Kate Houghton took out the contemporary category with a Michael Lo Sorodo feather fascinator. “There’s plenty of good-looking girls here, I was just stoked to get in the final,” Kate said. Her prize included return flights from Roma to Brisbane, a holiday on the Gold Coast, a $100 gift voucher and a pearl necklace.

Bundaberg lad Robert McRae stayed at a mate’s place for the weekend. Shenanigans began on Friday night. “It was Donkey Kong last night,” he said on Saturday. He thought the meet was an authentic bush experience and a good chance to meet women and … “It’s very country. Do you know how long it took us to get here? It was a long time,” he said and seemed to think he had earned a beverage for the effort.

Tegan Byrnes had been nursing at Mitchell. The races were a good chance for her to break out the swag. Mate Grace Clulow commented that there were more hot guys than she’d anticipated. Nathan Cusack from Dalby dubbed Roma the best race day in western Qld and he’s been to a fair few west of the gas country. “I’d rather go to Roma races than Eagle Farm any day,” he said, adding that at four-and-a-half hours from anywhere the location is ideal for catching up with mates.

Amber Shadlow came out with a few friends from Brisbane for a camp and a party. She said western race meets had a certain reputation. “My mum told me to keep myself tidy,” she said.