Kununurra Cup signals the height of outback fashion – and end of the dry season

Fashions on the Field winners strut their stuff on raceday at Kununurra, in East Kimberley, Western Australia. Photo: James BrickwoodCup Day marks the end of the race season – and the dry season – in Kununurra, north east Western Australia.

In 35 degree heat and with the humidity closing in, over 1000 members of East Kimberley’s regional community came together on Saturday for the annual horse races, culminating in the Kununurra Cup, held at the track and in the shade of the Sleeping Buddha mountain.

Elise Petty, 42, an organiser of Fashions on the Field at the race meet, was charged with judging the day’s best dressed racegoers.

The owner of boutique Bangle Business, she said the day was a high moment in the area’s social and fashion calendar – and that the remoteness of the town, 3500km from Perth and 850km from Darwin, did nothing to deter women and men from pulling out the fashion stops.

“This is the biggest day for us. People go all out for this – and they shop local because if they don’t the shops close and the community loses out.”

Caity Craig, 27, co-organiser of the competition and wearing the symbolic race flower, the everlasting, said competition was close.

“Out of all the small towns I’ve lived in outback Australia, Kununurra is probably the most fashionable,” she said. “We buy it all locally, we don’t have to fly to Darwin or Perth or Sydney to find an outfit.”

An early wet season rainfall on Friday came as unwelcome news to farmers, but for some, the wet season can’t come too soon.

“It’s the end of the dry season, we’re longing for the wet,” said Anika Salerno, 29, a former model whose Italian family roots have long influenced business in East Kimberley. “It’s a bit of relief, everyone’s hanging out.”

For a town that is shaped by fast-paced change, not least Ord River’s stage two expansion project, increasing the area’s vast agricultural irrigation footprint and new alcohol restrictions that aim to target the community’s social inequality, the tradition of Cup day endures.

As the sun set over the nearby Ord River after the final race, two up coins reached into the night sky and towards the year’s rain clouds.

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