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Published: February 4th 2015
View from the lookout just outside if town
A phone call to an auto electrician in Tamworth assures me that the problem with the battery charger in the caravan can be fixed, so we head off to Tamworth to a caravan park recommended by the auto electrician. On arrival we discover that the world famous Tamworth Music Festival begins in one weeks time, intending only to book in long enough to get our electrics fixed we decide to stay for the festival. With a week to wait we get our electrics fixed and we explore the town and surrounds in the relative calm before the crowds gather for the festival.
Tamworth city is the hub of the region supporting a population of 55,000 people throughout the area with a huge farming and grazing industry this is real country and is only 574km from Brisbane and 419km from Sydney.The city itself is a hive of activity with all the trappings of a big city but with a country feeling.From pub food to fine dining what ever your taste it can be catered for here together with any amount of out door activities from gliding,fishing,canoeing to horse riding and many more.This is a modern country city with a rich heritage
which can be explored in one of the many exhibitions,museums and historical buildings.One claim to fame is that the city was the first town in Australia to provide electric street lighting.
Five major venues cater for all manner of events in the city including the state of the art Australian Equine and Livestock Events centre with seating for 3360 people and stables for 478 horses.Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre can seat 5,000 people and has state of the art audio and visual technology catering for all types of events.Every month sees some major event taking place in Tamworth, this month it is the Tamworth Country Music Festival and ABCRA National Finals Rodeo.
The festival attracts over 55,000 visitors doubling the population together with 600 musicians who will play over 2,600 performances across all types of venues.This is a major logistics enterprise requiring careful planning and execution.With every hotel,motel,b & b booked out, camp sites spring up everywhere with all the commercial caravan parks also fully booked some with repeat bookings from year to year.
An official festival guide provides all the information a visitor requires to navigate the maze of artists and venues, giving a directory of all
the artists who are performing together with a time table of events and venues.From the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre to the local pubs and clubs the venues are as varied as the artists who are to perform.Several outdoor and indoor stages are set up at strategic locations including a major outdoor stage in the Bi - Centennial Park which has a name change for the festival to Toyota Park in honour of the main sponsor of the festival Toyoto Motors.Peel Street which runs through the heart of Tamworth is closed for the festival and becomes the central hub of the festival which features buskers and bands all hoping for discovery and a future in the music industry.Many of our best known country artists started their music career here on Peel Street and some still make a guest appearance much to the delight of festival goers and musicians.
Being a festival of country music also provides an opportunity to celebrate all that is country music and nominations are made for all manner of awards including the Golden Guitar awards given to both up and coming artist as well as established stars in a variety of categories.From humble beginnings this country
Ned Kelly truck parked outside our caravan park later to take place in the final parade
music festival has grown to be one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere if not the world.
The caravan park we are staying on is only a short distance from the centre of the city and is conveniently on a bus route with a stop just outside the park,special buses and routes have been introduced for the duration of the festival.At no extra cost the camp sites hosts country music every night we are there before the festival starts, what a good lead in for the festival.We peruse the official guide in an attempt to set some sort of itinerary,take advice from fellow visitors some of who have been here many times,it will be impossible to see it all, so decisions need to be made, who are we going to see and hear.We decide on some artists and venues but leave it flexible and see how the festival flows.With a mix of free and paid venues there is much to see.
The big day arrives and we head for a pub called the Longyard to see and hear a band we first saw right at he beginning of our epic journey around Australia at the lava tubes
Hill Billy Goats
in Undara. The Hillbilly Goats a vibrant and energetic band from north Queensland gave a three hour concert of there style of country music. Next we head for peel street. the street now closed to traffic we are free to wander and take in the atmosphere generated by the now installed buskers and bands.Stalls selling all things country have been erected along Peel Street and adjoining streets adding to the vibrancy of event. Over the next two weeks we visit many clubs,pubs and out door venues and see and hear so many different acts.With artists as varied as an 8yr old boy playing a banjo with incredible dexterity to a man that looked at least 90 years old doing an impromptu tap dance to a delighted audience in Peel street.The festival ends with an awards night when nominated artists find out if they have been fortunate to have won an award but not before the grand parade which takes place along Peel street at which all the nominated artists take part together with many others still keen to be part of the festivities.The parade had 88 floats, three pipe bands and any number of artists walking alongside and in between
floats, it was a great atmosphere and a fitting end to the festival.
We took an evening out of the music scene to attend a Rodeo which was held over 4 days in the magnificent Australian Equine Events Centre. The evening we attended was to be a finals night.We were treated to a incredible display of horsemanship from both men and women.Events on that evening were, bareback bronco riding,bucking bronco riding,bucking bull riding,barrel racing and steer roping.All manner of horse and stable gear was on sale including a hand crafted ornate leather saddle with a price tag of $5000.This sport is not for the fainthearted, it is fast and furious and not without its dangers,two competitors were stretchered out of the arena and taken to hospital following accidents during the competition.
Our time in Tamworth had come to an end, we had an absolutely fantastic time,hearing so many different variations on country music and seeing the variety of young and older musicians from all quarters of Australia with a smattering of overseas performers.What a fascinating festival with a well deserved reputation as being the top country music festival in Australia.
We have a theater date in Melbourne,so
we give ouselfs plenty of time to get there and head off at a leisurely pace.Our first stop Dubbo a place we had visited before and on this occasion we simply use it as a stop over before continuing our journey.Australia day saw us in Forbes a small town which like so many country towns has played a part in shaping Australia.1817 saw the first settlement following the discovery of this bountiful land by explorer John Oxley, the town boomed in 1861 with the discovery of gold but this soon petered out and today the town is a thriving rural community with farming and agriculture as its main industry.The town takes its name from Sir Francis Forbes the first Chief Justice of New South Wales.With museums,historic buildings and beautiful parks this is a town worthy of a stopover and a wander around.The notorious bushranger Ben Hall was shot dead by police just outside Forbes and is buried in the cemetery in Forbes. The town has one of the finest private collections of motor cars and motor cycles in Australia.Housed in a purpose built facility and 70% owned by one family there are over 90 exhibits of restored and original vehicles
one of the many artists taking part in the festival
with some waiting to be restored, this facility is a must for any one interested in the history of motors in Australian.The town hosted an Australian Day celebration in the local park in the centre of town with live music a parade and much more,the weather was kind and the day ended with fireworks.Leaving Forbes we head across the Riverina plains recognised as the worlds best Merino wool and sheep breeding area, we are heading for Jerilderie a town made famous by the robbery of the local bank by the Ned Kelly Gang in 1879 the only time the gang robbed any town in NSW. A walking trail dedicated to this event is a highlight when visiting this town.The town also boasts one of only two Steel Wings Windmills 50ft tall and 25ft diameter built in Sydney in 1890 it was originally put to use on Goolgumbia station before being relocated to Jerilderie in 1979.Stopping only overnight we take in the Ned Kelly walk and gaze in wonderment at the hugh windmill had a pie at the Ned Kelly bakery and said farewell the following morning before heading off to Melbourne.
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