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How a salt lake showdown between two rivals put this WA town on the map

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How a salt lake showdown between two rivals put this WA town on the map

When two fishermen may no longer agree on who owned the fastest horse, they determined to race them across the vast salt lakes that stretch in the back of Leeman, a small crayfishing community in Western Australia.

It was Easter, 1972, and as a crowd of locals gathered to watch the two deckhands race the horses, a 30-year community tradition was born.

Early Newspaper

At its peak, the Snag Island Cup and gala day in Leeman at Easter attracted thousands of individuals from across the state.

They came to watch horse races and participate in fishing-industry themed events, together with rope coiling and crayfish racing.

Stephanie McTaggart was one of the main organisers over 30 years of crucial fundraising for a college that opened in 1971.

“It was accurate amazing,” she said.

“The following year we had one thing love 500 individuals and it accurate grew and grew.

“We wanted to fundraise for the college and over the 30 years we raised one thing love $300,000.”

A close shot of a woman sitting on a table looking at the camera smiling

Stephanie McTaggart was one of the main organisers of the Snag Island Cup and gala day for 30 years.(

ABC: Jo Prendergast

)

About 12 horses competed via heats and Mrs McTaggart said ideas were introduced that a horse may no longer have raced professionally for two years.

About 80 individuals labored to station up the horse races and novelty events and, along with raising funds for the college, the race and gala day put the fishing town on the map.

Four men crouch over coiling yellow rope.

Rope coiling and other fishing themed events were popular at the Snag Island Cup and gala day.(

Supplied: Stephanie McTaggart

)

Leeman, about 260 kilometres north of Perth, was settled by crayfishers and fishing remains the predominant industry, however it unquestionably is also a popular tourism destination for swimming, browsing and windsurfing.

“On the lake we old-fashioned to have one thing love 2,000 individuals advance,” Mrs McTaggart said.

“We had to have a special car park because we couldn’t match them at the lake. Eventually we had to have buses to earn individuals in there.

“It was a really a hit day, individuals came from in all places.”

A picture from the 1970s of men with their hands behind their backs lined up eating watermelon from the ground.

Watermelon eating was a popular contest at the Snag Island Cup gala day.(

Supplied: Stephanie McTaggart

)

Ironically, the winner of the first race between those bickering fishermen was never certain.

“They raced past the crowd into the bush, we never saw them for about two hours, and we didn’t know who won,” Mrs McTaggart said.

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How a salt lake showdown between two rivals put this WA town on the map