REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Tamworth, where you can forget the fires and the drought for a few days

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Tamworth-based journalist Madeline Link.

Ahhh: Winding down from the real world for a moment at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Ahhh: Winding down from the real world for a moment at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

It's hot. The collective twang of hundreds of buskers and dust fills the air as the city is overrun by a microcosm of campers.

The 10-day festival usually reels in more than 200,000 visitors, 700 artists and 2800 events in 120 venues.

But, things are different this year, in a regional city of 62,000 people that's quickly running out of water.

In a drought everyone suffers; small business, accommodation providers, restaurateurs and without bleating on about the obvious, farmers.

 Tamworth Country Music Festival will always attract a crowd.

Tamworth Country Music Festival will always attract a crowd.

Compound that with the entire state on fire, sprinkled with an underfunded NSW Rural Fire Service and a lack of water to fight the fires with; we know the thud of boots on the ground at the country music capital will be faint this year.

Accommodation providers here have already felt the pinch as empty beds become the hallmark of bushfires and drought.

Hotel bookings have dropped by 30 per cent at some places thanks to rumours the festival has been cancelled.

The odds are stacked against us in a situation where most would sit and wring their hands.

But in the true fashion of rural stoicism and the Australian spirit, we'll pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get on with it.

The value of country music has always been in telling the Australian story. We've always loved an underdog.

Lee Kernaghan. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Lee Kernaghan. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Boy from the bush Lee Kernaghan wrote an entire album about people off the land.

A song inspired by a moment with a station owner 100 klicks east of Marble Bar in the Pilbara desert country.

When the wet season comes, the rain falls down, the river comes up and he and his misso sit on the front verandah watching lightning.

It was enough to give Kernaghan goosebumps. Stories like that are everywhere here.

Even at the campgrounds here in Tamworth, the riverbeds that once provided cool relief to campers are almost dry. It still hasn't dampened spirits.

Let's be honest, this is the same scenario Parkes found itself in recently when the calendar ticked over to the annual Elvis Festival.

Just as Tamworth faces a desperate mix of weather-borne crises, so did (and does) the NSW Central West town. Regardless, they celebrated the King of Rockn'Roll with gusto - just as they should.

We're thinking the rain Tamworth received on Thursday - nowhere near drought-breaking but most certainly spirit-lifting - is a great omen for another great festival. If you can, why not drop in?

Madeline Link, journalist, Northern Daily Leader

PS: If you can't make, then we'll do our best to keep you up-to-date. Don't miss a beat - sign up for the dedicated Tamworth Country Music Festival newsletter here.

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