AU ABROAD

Guest Feature: Andrew Smith, Destination NSW’s Chief Funster at the Country Music Festival in Tamworth, NSW (January 2014)

the AU review is proud to present this special guest post from Andrew Smith, Destination NSW’s Chief Funster. In this piece, Andrew reports exclusively for the AU from the annual Country Music Festival in Tamworth, NSW, which takes place from the 17th until the 26th of January...

I’ve just spent a few days discovering why Tamworth is tagged as the country music capital of Australia.

The biggest event of its type in the Southern Hemisphere, the 10-day Tamworth Country Music Festival totally transforms the town into one big get-together celebrating country music.

I arrived in time for the opening night – arguably the highlight of the festival – which this year was the biggest in the event's 42-year history. Tamworth's Bicentennial Park filled quickly with people from all over, settling in with their chairs and picnic rugs, ready to see and hear country music stars perform on the big stage.

Crowd favourites Adam Harvey (pictured above) and Troy Cassar-Daley co-headlined, playing legendary country classics – all the music they’d both grown up with by the musicians they looked up to. Everyone identified with their set. The stars of the show could’ve been on that big stage or in a living room and it would’ve been the same vibe.

The opening night offered more than music. Once performer Nathan Briggs (pictured below) had finished dousing his whip in kerosene, he lit it on fire and cracked it on stage causing an explosive fireball each time. The crowd “oohed” and “ahhed”, and if you were close enough, the heat would graze your face with each whip crack.

Nathan was followed by The Crackup Sisters who call themselves professional idiots (really!) but are in fact comedians and acrobats. They also had whips, which is never not awesome.

Above everything else, Tamworth is truly defined by busking. The main strip of Peel Street was lined with more than 400 registered buskers – the largest number to date – performing day and night throughout the festival. And it’s not just country music. From amateur to awesome, whip cracking to fire juggling, the buskers covered it all.

Busking on Peel Street has been the springboard for now-famous Australian artists including Kasey Chambers, Adam Brand and Keith Urban. While it's hard to imagine these artists busking on the street, it's considerably more imaginable when you can meet them yourself in the festival's dedicated Fanzone. The option to interact with the stars does well in telling the story and attitude of the festival and town.

For festival goers, it’s all free entertainment – buskers just hope they are repaid for their enthusiasm with a coin donation.

You can tell Tamworth is really proud of its connection with music. The city is packed with record shops and music stores. Everywhere you look there are instruments. It’s cool to see how much music is loved and appreciated there, how keen people are to foster a music culture and encourage busking and emerging talent. It is, after all, a great place to be discovered.

The music doesn’t begin and end in Tamworth either. The nearby quaint little village of Nundle, for instance, offers plenty of entertainment at the Peel Inn and the Dag Sheep Station where you can wrestle a pig, see a sheep shearing demonstration, or just kick back and listen to some great live tunes.

Back in Tamworth, no trip is complete without a photo at the famed Big Golden Guitar.With 800 established and up-and-coming artists presenting nearly 4,000 performances day and night, and plenty of other entertainment in between, it's easy to see why this festival is so popular.

And as Tamworth is just five hours drive north of Sydney, or a quick 55-minute flight, it’s a fantastic short break option and an opportunity to get to know the real Country NSW.

For more information on Tamworth and the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival, go to:
http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/tamworth-area

For the Chief Funster’s next big adventure, he is heading to Sydney for a huge day of activities on Australia Day, January 26.

Tamworth was one of the first regional NSW destinations that winner of the NSW ‘Best Job in the World’, Andrew Smith visited as part of his six-month role as Chief Funster for Destination NSW.

Hailing from Orange County, California, USA, Andrew has been tasked with showing that the State is the most fun place in the world for youth travellers. He’s responsible for The Funster Experiment – a challenge set for him by Destination NSW to uncover 802,000 moments of fun – one for each square kilometre of the State. He’ll spend six months travelling around NSW in search of fun activities, events and attractions, and sharing his finds with travellers from around the world via social media.

Tracking his progress is a real-time tally of fun moments, featured on the newly-launched The Funster Experiment hub at http://www.sydney.com/workstudyplay.

To follow the Chief Funster’s adventures and progress, go to: http://www.sydney.com/workstudyplay

Facebook: Sydneyfunaustralia
Twitter: @sydneyfun
Instagram: @sydneyfun
Blog: www.sydney.com/sydney-life

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