Pollie Pedal 2014 – Day 2, Bingara

Pollie Pedal Day 2 – meeting with local school children in Manilla with local MP and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce

As the Pollie Pedal rides into Bingara at the end of the first day on the road, I read a poster in a shop window informing residents that Mike McClellan was playing at the Roxy Theatre the previous night.

It takes me back to the days of the famous Troubadour restaurant in Melbourne, and some of the great artists of the era, such as Kevin Johnson and Doug Ashdown.

Bingara is a small community of about 1,200 people nestled on the Gwyder River in northern New South Wales.

We arrive early in the afternoon after the 100 kilometre ride from Moree, having stopped to open the Moffett Park playground at Gravesend along the way.

A group of local residents are waiting for us at Cunningham Park to discuss various issues, one of many such gatherings over the next week.

I later discover that the Roxy Theatre, where we are having dinner tonight, has a rich history.

It began when three Greek migrants from Kythera moved from Sydney to Bingara in the 1920s.

The three men, Peter Feros, Emanuel Aroney and George Psaltis, opened the Peters and Co Greek cafe, along with some shops and a new theatre.

It was a grand establishment, built in the Art Deco style of the era. Willing competition with another local theatre, the Modern, soon broke out, providing the local residents and the farmers from miles around with a feast of entertainment.

The new talking movies soon replaced the old silent films, as progress engulfed the small country town.

The complex had various uses over the years, eventually falling into disuse, until purchased by the Gwyder Shire in the late 1990s. The magnificently restored theatre was re-opened in 2004, and now serves as the cultural and artistic hub of the region.

Earlier this year, the cafe was re-opened as a Museum to the contribution of so many Greek immigrants to rural Australia.

The theatre looks splendid for our dinner, the rich red stage curtains contrasting with the soft lighting and the Art Deco architecture. The auxiliary for the local aged care service, Touriandi, have cooked-up a feast for us tonight.

As I relax after the first day in the saddle, my thoughts return to Mike McClellan’s first big hit. I close my eyes and imagine his melodic voice and the acoustic guitar playing at the Roxy the night before. His lyrics run through my head: “I’m just a song and dance man, Going from town to town, Playing one-night shows and country rodeos.”

I wish I had been here last night.

Today’s ride commences with breakfast at the Living Classroom before heading off on the 153 km trek to Tamworth.

Along the way, we stop for a community function at Manilla, the home place of our ride director, Graeme Northey. Barnaby Joyce joins us at Barraba for the last 90 km.

It has been a long day on the bike. The greeting from the local community at Tamworth is a welcome respite.

Tomorrow we pedal to Gunnedah.