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Tamworth Country Music Festival, Helpful Hints and Festival Review

dsc00185-1.JPGThe Tamworth Country Music festival made it into the list of Top 100 Australian things to Do/See published in several travel magazines. When a girlfriend suggested we go- I was tentative but agreeable. I am not a massive country music fanatic, but do enjoy a good music festival. We left Sydney a little nervous since we found it really difficult to get valuable information on how the festival is run, if we needed tickets, and what to expect for accomodation/facilities.. So- if you are planning to try and catch the last weekend of the festival this year or start planning for next year- this should help.
Most importantly…Accommodation:
Hotel/motel- you need to be prepared for minimum stay requirements of about 5+ days, be prepared to pay a premium, and you will need to book at LEAST one year in advance. I stopped through Tamworth 4 months before this years festival and they literally laughed at me when I asked about accommodation.
Camping:If you plan to need a campervan site with power you will need to make reservations like a hotel- a year in advance. But if you have a tent or don’t need power- you can chance getting a spot by simply arriving. There are several campgrounds close, and Tamworth turns their sporting fields across the river from the festival into a temporary campground. It was a minimum of $80 for a tent for as long as we wanted to stay. So one night or 6- same price.

There were showers available for $2 and there were plenty of portable toilet blocks that were well maintained. Much more comfortable than I envisioned. That said- we got there early in the festival. We saw lots of tents in the middle of a field, or next to the shower facilities that were in the roasting sun. There were more and more people squeezing into whatever space was available by the hour. There were not cooking facilities. (there is a public park near the information center that did have a grill.)
We drove past a place called Tent City Hire. While we didn’t stay there it looked pretty cool. Next to one of the concert venues- there were literally hundreds of matching tents setup in a City. It looked pretty cool and avoids you having to pack a lot of you own camping gear. Probably worth looking into.
The feeling/facilites:
The crowd was extremely friendly and good natured. You do NOT need tickets to enjoy the festival unless there is an artist you would like to see. The heart of the festival is the main street in town where there is a busking competition with plenty of artists of every genre from young children on clarinet, to loungey sleazy country, to aboriginal music, to awesome country bands, all the way to bagpipes. If you do enjoy a busker (street performer), do drop a few coins in their hat. They are not getting paid to be there.
There are several bars, restaurants and exhibits all along the main street to take care of basic needs (occasional AC, cold beer, and music) There is a grocery store/shopping center at the end of the street as well to load up on forgotten supplies. Several food vendors were on offer, a thousand cowboy hat booths, line dancers, and a few kitschy souvenir booths lined the streets. Prices were reasonable as far as festivals go with little apparent price gouging…except the accommodation.
There are TONS of free acts to go see, and the concerts that sell tickets are all reasonably priced by Australian standards. Pick up a festival guide from the information center in town.
There are buses that go to the venues, but they are not overly frequent so do plan your trip. Most hotels and information centers had the bus schedules. Taxi’s were apparently working on a call-out basis only. Try calling 131 008. If you drive in and around the festival, there did seem to be plenty of parking.
Overall impression:
Very well organized, not much price gouging, plenty of facilities to accommodate a crowd, plenty of options for entertainment for all ages without having to attend a specific concert. Do come prepared for it to be hot! I don’t know about a must-do if you are not a country music fan, but it was certainly a great time, a cultural peek into the Heartbeat of Australia and more than worth the 5 hour trip from Sydney.