Every year in January, droves of music lovers flock to Tamworth for its annual Country Music Festival – 10 days of country-western fuelled entertainment.
The festival, now it its 46th, year has loads on offer for the 50,000-plus visitors who make the pilgrimage, from buskers and gigs to market stalls and performance artists – all of which continue well into the night.
You’ll find Tamworth in the New England region of northwest NSW – pretty much half way between Sydney and Brisbane. If you’re gearing up to participate in next year’s festivities and aren’t too sure of what you need to see while you’re in town, don’t sweat it – we have you covered.
#1 The Golden Guitar
Did you really visit Tamworth if you didn’t share a snap of you standing next to the town’s golden guitar statue? The Big Golden Guitar is a Tamworth icon, located just out of town on the New England Highway – if you’re driving in from Sydney it’ll be on your left just before you hit town. You can’t miss it.
After stopping for a few snaps, venture inside the tourist centre hidden behind the Golden Guitar. There, you can grab a bite to eat, sharpen your Tamworth knowledge and wander through the gift shop. There’s also a museum kitted-out with country music memorabilia as well as the largest privately owned collection of Donald Bradman memorabilia.
The centre is open seven days, from 9am to 5pm. (Insert Dolly Parton pun here.)
#2 Opening Night In Bicentennial Park
Bicentennial Park is located smack-bang in the middle of Tamworth’s CBD, and will become your second home during the festival. The park offers free concerts every night over the festival’s 10 days, but none stack up to opening night.
Whether it’s due to built up excitement or the incredible line-up of country music musos, sitting on the hill in the summer air makes for an unmatched atmosphere.
Next year’s opening night line-up features Golden Guitar and CMAA Academy of Country Music award-winners Pete Denahy, Catherine Britt, Amber Lawrence and The Bushwackers. All gigs at Bicey Park are family friendly events, so bring the kids, bring the dog and settle in for a night of incredible entertainment.
#3 Chuck A Peely
Peel Street is the main stretch of road through Tamworth’s CBD, and “chucking a Peely” is a rite of passage for locals and visitors alike. During the festival, over 1km of Peel Street and Kable Avenue are sectioned off from traffic and transformed into a miniature festival in its own right.
Along Peel Street, you’ll find the essence of the Country Music Festival: loads of buskers, food trucks and performance artists, as well as all the great shopfronts, bars and restaurants of Tamworth. Oh, you’ll also find some cooling stations where you’ll be sprayed with an icy cold mist, should you want a spell from the heat.
All of the best parts of the festival live in Peel Street, and most places will stay open into the night, making it even more enjoyable when the town’s main street is lit up by beautiful fairy lights.
#4 Get To Some Gigs
Presumably, the whole reason you’ve made the trip to Tamworth during the festival is to take in some live tunes, and you won’t have any problems finding them. Pick up a gig guide from the tourist information centre in town – it’ll show you a range of free and ticketed concerts across all the different venues in town.
Apart from the daily concerts at Bicentennial Park and the hundreds of buskers on the streets, some of the best places to listen to live music are local bars. Almost all of the pubs in town have live entertainment from the morning into the night. The Courthouse Hotel has free live performances all day, from 11am to midnight daily over the festival, featuring always-impressive line-ups.
Alternatively, if you were chasing some of the bigger names, the likes of Kasey Chambers, Adam Harvey or Troy Cassar-Daley, your best bet is buying tickets to one of their gigs at Wests Leagues Club or the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre (TRECC). For more details, visit the festival’s official website.
If Tamworth Country Music Festival is something you think you’d like to check out next year, start planning ASAP, because accommodation fills up pretty fast. From experience, trip essentials include loads of sunscreen, a hat, your swimmers and a pair of dancing shoes for boot-scootin’, obviously.
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