Goulburn is a large town on the Hume Highway in between Sydney and Canberra that we have always remembered for its big Merino. Recently relocated to accommodate Goulburn’s changing traffic flow, the Merino now resides on the southern side at the services stopover for long distance travellers. Our children love stopping for a chance to burn off energy, racing up its hollow body and reading the installations about the wool industry. (This trip we found out that Driza-a-Bones are made from wool.)
In the centre, near Goulburn’s central railway station, is the Tourist information office and a large beautifully kept public park called Belmore Park complete with kids’ play equipment. Surrounded by very wide streets, Belmore Park looks onto the High Street shopping district, full of freshly painted historic shop facades including iconic eatery, The Paragon Cafe.
Every February Goulburn hosts the Australian Blues Music Festival in this central business district. Boasting a full weekend program that includes over 70 free-entry shows, it is a great way to groove away a weekend. This year 11 venues held shows, including Belmore Park, the Centro shopping centre, local pubs and service clubs.
Thanks to directors of The Australian Blues Music Festival, Laing Entertainment, such a wide range of Blues music genres can be found on the program. Their strong understanding and involvement in the music industry ensures that from Mississippi Delta to Bob Dylan country-blues with a dash of folk, boogie and jazz are catered for. Instruments such as washboards, ukuleles, slide guitars, harmonica, drum kits and stomp boxes exist in the Blues mix and can be heard about town jamming or warming up for a gig.
Performances in pub and community club venues enable the Blues Festival to be accessible to everyone to enjoy good music and hear new sounds but with such a list of accomplished and award winning national and international performers, the only problem is negotiating the program in order to see as much talent as possible!
The bands to play include Halfway to Fourth, Quasimodo Blues Band, Morningside Fats, Hot Flush Blues Band and Dreamboogie. Early in the festival, Diana Wolfe and the Black Sheep played in the park to an appreciative audience. Her strong vocals and contagious sense of humour set the score for a great gig and more to come over the weekend.
Solo artists include Kurt Gentle, Kathryn Hartnett, Paul Robert Burton and Lisa Ohlback. Goulburn boy, Luke Wilton, took the opportunity to come home for the weekend from far north coast NSW. Sharing ‘poetic relatable lyrics with raw earthy vocals’ and (12 string) slide guitar tunes on the APRA/AMCOS stage in Belmore Park, Luke was proud to mention his dad’s Ukulele gig for that evening at the Goulburn Club.
Opposite Belmore Park, The Goulburn Club has an open mic jam over the Blues Festival weekend that may not finish until all hours of the morning. It seems that on Saturday night as venues were winding down, Frank Macias and The UNDERGROUND CITY BLUES JAM were just warming up!
One evening we had a delicious meal at Tatts Hotel and were lucky enough to catch the ‘impossible to pigeonhole’ Rory Ellis (above). His deep voice and wicked humour held the attention of a busy pub and the dining area to his credit. Even our ten year old boy took time off from watching the cricket!
The Australian Blues Music Festival is a really fun weekend, in our opinion, and a great excuse to leave the city for a chilled-out Blues experience with plenty of like-minded (not blue) folk.
Last week Festival Australia’s trip to Tumbafest in the Snowy Mountains Region NSW was interesting for our whole family. From a renewable power station to a state border crossing and the pobblebonk frog, we all learnt something about this fabulous country of ours besides enjoying the many merits of Tumbarumba’s annual festival.
On the last weekend in February we visited the western side of the Snowy Mountains Region to attend the annual festival for Tumbarumba NSW called 'Tumbafest'. On our trip south we took the Hume Highway past the ‘Big Merino’ near Goulburn and the ‘Dog on the Tuckerbox’ just outside of Gundagai was a convenient place for a toilet stop and a quick snack. One of the cafes even advertised vegetarian and gluten free food.
Leaving the Hume Highway at Gundagai and heading south on the Snowy Mountains Highway, we stopped in Tumut. As it was early teatime, we gathered some groceries and delicious freshly squeezed orange juice from the local fruit market and headed to Tumut walking track and public space for a picnic. Our children enjoyed an attempt to circumnavigate the wetlands water system and were proud to return from their adventure with muddy legs and absolutely sodden shoes.
A little too late but we discovered that Freyja’s (6) second pair of shoes for this trip were gumboots, as she thought she needed them not for mud but for the snow! Well, fortunately, there was no snow but beautiful warm summer days and a lovely reminder about the innocence of children.
As the sun was setting we turned out of Tumut to head further south through Batlow in the Snowy Valley. This time of year, Batlow is home to cascading hills of juicy bright red apples. The enormous scale of the Batlow apple industry had to be seen to be believed. Enough apples to feed the country for the whole month we think. We passed by fast growing pine forests and saw some clearfell where the forest used to be. There is also an arbetoreum just off this road that labels many different species of pine trees. We stopped at the Union Jack Memorial to remember the men from the village who gave their lives in World War I.
Nearby is Tumbarumba, our destination. In the beautiful little town of 2000 with a wide main street is a comprehensive Tourist Information Centre on the region with some hands-on demonstrations for children. There is plenty of accommodation to suit all travellers including a number of free campsites just out of town by fast flowing creeks or walking tracks. ‘Grey nomads’ (who are often long term caravanners) say that they choose to stay longer and spend their money in a town such as this, where council have provided a place for them to stay for no cost.
Our family were fortunate to pick up a cottage cancellation at the Tumbarumba Creek Caravan Park alongside the Tumbafest grounds. There is ample space in the park, clean BBQ and bathroom facilities and our hosts, MaryAnn and Malcolm Marshall, were extremely hospitable. They have owned the park since 1999 and seem to have the establishment running like clockwork which is impressive on such a busy weekend. Camping starts from $8 per person and our self contained cottage for a family of 6, is very reasonable for a little over $100/night.
Tumbafest is a festive weekend at the end of February each year that showcases local food, wine and talent in the Tumbarumba Shire plus inviting headline acts. The community help as event volunteers or with their local club to raise funds by providing services such as food and drink outlets. A crowd pleaser and sellout each year is the Tumbarumba Rugby Club’s (rubber) duck races down the creek where each ticket holder has a chance to take out cash prizes. The race is called by radio personality ……… as if it were the Melbourne Cup!
Our family really enjoyed the wide mix of weekend entertainment on centre stage. Headline act, Adam Thompson, had everyone from children to grandmothers dancing in minutes. He was ‘electric rock’.
Visiting artists The Fabulous Chandeliers (pictured) were great fun, The Little Big Ol Bus Band played a ‘romped up mix’ of both original and retro swing, and recent winners of Best Duet at Whittlesea Country Music festival Carter and Carter embraced country music. Kildare Catholic College performance and local Martial arts demonstration were highly energetic and polished too. Our children, veteran festival-goers by now, also enjoyed TimTim in the children’s tent. His quirky mannerisms and clever wit had them in stitches.
Congratulations to the organisers of Tumbafest and the committee.
Distant Education Material Galore
Being fortunate enough to have the children schooling with us this year through distance education we were able to wind our way slowly through the Snowy Mountains after Tumbafest finished. We walked into Paddys Falls and found a good camping spot nearby, on Paddys River, too. We also stopped at the Southern CloudMemorial to commemorate the plane of that name that went down on a flight from Sydney to Melboune in March 1931. The crash site was not discovered until October 1958.
South of Tumbarumba is a tiny village called Tooma. Here, our children played for hours in the river and found a mud pool that they could get messy in and then wash off once again. With a population dotted nearby of about 100, Roger at the Tooma pub is a wealth of information and provider of a fine cold beer.
We continued south and wove a path in and out of NSW and Victoria, passing over the Murray River several times, which divides the two states. The children made jokes that I was taking photos of trees and hills, but I did find the changes in terrain quite fascinating and beautiful, even if it was from a moving car!
Upon entering Kosckiuszko National Park near Khancoban, we took a winding trip along the Alpine Way, to a power station. The Murray 1 Power Station and Visitors Centre is part of the Snowy Hydro Electric scheme, completed in the 1960’s and able to provide power to 1 million houses. The water is used once again downstream to convert into energy at Murray 2 before being released back into the river system as fresh water and thus, renewable energy. Murray 1 has a comprehensive display to check out, but the best bit is on opportunity several times a day to actually go into the power station and see it working. The décor is suitably dated but beautifully appointed as this was the site that the HRH Queen Elizabeth visited many moons ago.
Cloud cover meant that we wouldn’t get to look out from the highest mountain, Kosciuszko, in Australia and see anything more interesting than we could see from the ground, so we headed north to Kiandra, ghost town of the shortest gold rush from 1859-60. Its barren moors and misty hills are mesmerising.
Following the Snowy Mountain Highway further north, there is a 6km one way track down to Yarrangobilly Caves. Run by the National Parks and Wildlife services, Regina guided us through an underground fairyland that has existed for millions of years as a series of watercourses and slowly developing mineral deposits to make stalagmites and stalactites. I find it difficult to accept that this century’s energy procurement program of Coal Seam Gas mining assumes the right to destroy such an intricate underworld if it got in the way of fracking, in a second.
At Yarrangobilly there is also a naturally heated thermal pool which the children enjoyed enormously. We took the 700m walk downhill to this oasis in the early afternoon and stayed as long as we could to swim in the emerald green water (from algae) and home for the Eastern Banjo Frog, or Pobblebonk.
We had a fabulous four or five days with wonderful tourist destinations, educational opportunities galore and a fine laid back festival. Tumbafest is recommended.
Each year, on their way from the famous and energetic Tamworth Country Music Festival, traditional Australian balladeer musicians meet for a more intimate gathering at the Bungendore Country Music Muster, NSW.
Those who are devoted to country music can enjoy a weekend of all-Australian music played by the nation’s finest musicians such as Melissa Bajric, Keith Jamieson, Owen Blundell, Dean Perrett, Norma O’Hara Murphy and Dianne Lindsay.
Festival Australia Recorded a number of media interviews with various artists at the festival which you can check out here
Although the program started much earlier in the week with a more relaxed billboard approach for all to try their music in the town of Bungendore itself, our family hesitated to leave creature comforts of home during a very wet week. By the time we got moving excitedly on Saturday, we didn’t anticipate that the country may be hot and dry just outside of Canberra, ACT, so ‘we’ forgot to pack hats, sunscreen, coffee and (my) wallet!
As we drove south around Lake George we enjoyed seeing livestock on the desolate plain and marvelling how it could sometimes fill to be a lake during wet times. The 67 wind turbines at ‘Capital Wind Farm’ was also an imposing sight on the far side of the lake. Completed in 2009 and costing around $220 million, the wind farm was built to offset power usage at the Kurnell Desalination Plant.
The muster’s weekend program was held a little out of town at the Bungendore Showground and thanks to generous community efforts, ticket prices were a low $30 a day per adult. The SES, rural fire, local Scouts, Netball club and other local groups staffed the gate, ice cream, drinks and merchandise stands. The community also helped with rubbish disposal and keeping bathroom facilities clean and tidy which was noticed and really appreciated.
We arrived just in time for the opening performance at 2pm of breathtaking yodelling that we had never heard before. Most camping and caravan sites were so close to the stage that we could enjoy the concert even though we were setting up camp. Unlike other festivals, there is only one stage, but with the guidance of a gifted stage manager, continuous live music was programmed.
The children met some new playmates and were instantly off and racing in wide open spaces. Interestingly, there were not a lot of families with children at the muster. It seemed to us that this was a devoted and reliable ‘grey nomad’ audience, who like routine and their set seating in the shade, no matter if it was 200m away or even the night. This provided our children with room to meander near the stage and kept careful watch by hundreds of instant grandparents- thanks!
Festival organiser and co-founder, Maureen Gordon, explained that through her close connection with the traditional Australian Country Music industry over many years, she has had the privilege to know top balladeers and invite them to perform at Bungendore Country Music Muster. Terry Gordon, Alisha Smith, Graham Rodger, Charmaine Pout, Peter Coad and the Coad Sisters were some of the accomplished musicians at the 2012 Bungendore Country Music Muster.
The musicians said they thrived on sharing music with such devoted fans and also delighted in a little catch-up time with fellow artists after the maelstrom of Tamworth Country Music Festival.
One of the highlights of the weekend for us was the Stan Coster Awards on Saturday night. After the finalists and winner of each category were announced, each of them played three songs accompanied by the ever-adaptable Charley Boyter band.
It was a beautiful night under the bright moon and as we put the children to sleep in our tent later that evening, we heard a great piece... so rushed back over to the stage to see the nine guitarists Peter Simpson, Lindsay Waddington, Alisha Smith, Ben Kelly, Jim Hermel, Charlie Boyter, Trent Holder, Virginia Coad and Neville Molloy playing Winter Wind on stage.
Our weekend at Bungendore Country Music Muster was a really fun family time that we could recommend to anyone, young or old but don’t forget to pack hats, sunscreen and a wallet!
Stan Coster Memorial Bush Ballad Award Winners
Male Vocal Graham Rodger Such a Shame
Female Vocal Norma O'Hara Murphy Goin' for Glory
New Talent Kalesti Butler The Closing of the Day
Group or Duo Dean Perrett & Lee Kernaghan Channel Country Ground
Sophie (10) recounts her visit with her Festival Australia Family to the Parkes Elvis Festival in 2012
From 11th - 15th January 2012, we paid a visit to Parkes (in Central NSW) for their famous Elvis Festival, where 14000 people gathered to honour the King of Rock, Elvis Presley.
We arrived early in the festival, so we could set up the tents at the Parkes Showground, and I’m glad we did because during the next few days the campsite became packed.
On the evening of our arrival, the Elvis Trots took place on the race track. The Elvis trots is a horse racing event just like any other, apart from the fact that some of jockeys where dressed like Elvis. My siblings and I enjoyed estimating who would win, then changing our guess, then changing it again just before the horses crossed the finish line .
We rose at 6am the next day to attend ‘A Poets Breakfast’ which was an excellent event where the competition participants delivered their own ballads and poems to the topic ‘Elvis Presley-Follow That Dream’.
I particularly enjoyed the poems Titled ‘When I dreamed Elvis’ and ‘Mr 50%’, which explains my feelings when those particular poems gained first and second place!
The main event on Friday was the Elvis train where 70 people arrived with their suitcases and dressed as Elvis or Priscilla Presley.
For us, Saturday began with an excellent show put on by the dance students of Parkes. My favourite number was Hairspray.
But the big event of the day was the Parade. With a good mixture of cars, motorbikes and pedestrians dressed as Mr and Mrs Presley, the parade was certainly a highlight of the festival.
All-in-all the Elvis festival is a perfect festival for all Elvis fans, but hold on to your hair, you don’t want to be over Elvised!