Picnic Day is celebrated in the Northern Territory on the first Monday each August. The day is celebrated with various activities including horse racing at Hart’s Range and a railway picnic at Adelaide River.
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There are a couple of reasons cited as the origin of Picnic Day. During the nineteenth century, a large team of Chinese “coolies” were indentured to help construct the North Australia Railway from Darwin to Larrimah. In 1889, when 3000 coolies were released from their bond, they were given permission to settle in Australia or to return home.
They were also provided with the funds to pay their steamer fare back to China. Most chose to go to the settlement called Adelaide River and celebrate with a picnic. It is believed that Picnic Day is so named to commemorate this status change of the Chinese workers.
Another option for the origin of Picnic Day is the Hart’s Range Amateur Racing Club. One day in 1946, three Webb brothers and some other stockmen were branding for Mount Riddock Station. After their work was finished that day, they decided on an unofficial race back to the yard. The race was a draw but it lead eventually to a more formalised race day. Many in the area petitioned the government to ask for a public holiday and, in 1947, Picnic Day was granted.
The race ‘day’ now runs over the full weekend and includes various stakes, a rodeo and a dance evening. Camping is available and various BBQs and food services are provided.