Festival fever is bringing grey nomads to the bush

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The Big Red Bash attracts grey nomads
The Big Red Bash is a big draw for grey nomads.

It’s no secret that many rural communities are doing it tough … and that they are increasingly looking at innovative ways to lure in grey nomads to help boost the local economy.

While painted grain silos and rows of rusty sculptures do make a difference, nothing it seems has quite such a dramatic impact as a unique festival or quirky event. Across the country, towns are re-doubling their efforts to make already established events bigger and better than ever, or to establish completely new ones.

As well as bringing in much needed tourist dollars, communities struggling with the effects of drought are also being brought together to organise and to celebrate. And grey nomads are at the centre of it all.

“I love them all and certainly plan my itinerary around things like the Batlow Apple Blossom Festival or the Glen Innes Celtic Festival,” said veteran traveller, Oliver Thomas. “And I love the really true blue Aussie events like the Dunny Derby at Winton’s Outback Festival or the dry river bed boat race at the Henley-on-Todd Regatta.”

The significant benefits of these festivities featuring everything from bush poetry and stockmen’s challenges to camel races and beer can boats are being recognised by governments, as well. Queensland has been using a series of grants to give a lift to dozens of them as part of its Year of Outback Tourism Events Program.

“The array of exciting events being supported is as vast as our Outback itself,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Grants of up to $100,000 have gone to an array of established music, food, film, sports and cultural festivals, as well as helping launch new events such as Longreach putting on an Outback Paddle Regatta and River Fest. But not all successful events are created by councils or with government money.

The Music in the Mulga festival was started more than a decade ago solely by Carmel and Dave Meurant, the owners of Wandilla Station outside Eulo in south-west Queensland.

“There’s not a lot of things you can do in this district for diversification, it’s all just sheep and cattle,” Mrs Meurant told the ABC. “But the tourism industry is something that we can use to attract them to this area for a bit longer.”

While the festival itself isn’t necessarily a big money-maker, Mrs Meurant calculated that Music in the Mulga raises about $500,000 for the region through tourism. But it’s not just about money.

“It boosts everyone’s morale to walk away from their properties and all their troubles to come to something like this,” Jeanine Martine, who lives in nearby Cunnamulla, told the ABC.

  • Do you make events part of your Big Lap planning? Where are your favourites? Comment below.
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4 Responses to Festival fever is bringing grey nomads to the bush

  1. We have travelled from WA to do Tamworth’s midyear Country Music Festival, Broadbeach’s Groundwater Country Music Festival and Cleveland’s Rockabilly Greazefest Festival. We incorporate the music festivals into a broader trip catching up with family, friends snd visiting National Parks.

  2. The more the better

  3. I fully support country towns and whatever they can do to bring income to their economies … but .. my wife and I stay away from the larger festivals avoiding crowds and packed caravan parks. Now that I’m retired my wife and I prefer a more relaxed pace.

  4. Shows should be advertised everywhere so people can plan a trip .so where can I find all these shows and festivals lusted . I love country music .and the red dust dirt and everything simple.

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