The wack­i­est fes­ti­vals in NSW

There are fan­tas­tic events hap­pen­ing around NSW as lo­cals find wacky ways to cel­e­brate and put them­selves on the map, writes Sa­man­tha Townsend

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BA BAN­GA­LOW BI BILLYCART DERBY CASINOCA BEEF WEEK FES­TI­VAL OF THE FLEECES, MER­RIWA LOUTH RACES BROKENBR HEEL FES­TI­VAL

One is a sleepy coun­try town in the wheat­grow­ing re­gion of NSW, with a pop­u­la­tion un­der 700. The other is the cap­i­tal of Swe­den, a city of around one mil­lion in snowy Scan­di­navia.

But de­spite their ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences, lit­tle Trun­dle and bustling Stock­holm have one thing in com­mon: Abba.

Yes, the Swedish pop group whose an­noy­ingly catchy songs are trapped in our col­lec­tive heads, and whose lives are im­mor­talised in a mu­seum in Stock­holm, are also cel­e­brated an­nu­ally in the ru­ral Aus­tralian town.

The Trun­dle Abba Fes­ti­val, the world’s only fes­ti­val ded­i­cated to the band, turns the nor­mally quiet streets into a dance party, with lo­cals and visi­tors don­ning se­quins, wigs and Ly­cra. Even the most hard­ened of coun­try men are known to swap their boots and jeans for flares to strike a pose to Danc­ing Queen.

Like many towns bat­tling tough eco­nomic times, Trun­dle re­fused to be cowed and lo­cal movers and shak­ers de­cided to look for new ways to keep their town strong. They knew Parkes had a thriv­ing Elvis Fes­ti­val, and Port Mac­quarie had the Bea­tles Fes­ti­val, so they hit on Abba — and the fifth an­nual fes­ti­val will be held on May 7. Ex­pect disco danc­ing and singing com­pe­ti­tions, fash­ions of the fes­ti­val as well as stalls ded­i­cated to all things Abba. Trun­dle is not the only town turn­ing its for­tunes around with a com­bi­na­tion of in­ge­nu­ity, re­source­ful­ness and just a hint of quirk­i­ness.

Here’s Best Week­end’s guide to wacky events in ru­ral NSW this year, so you can sta start plan­ning now. On May 15, the main street of thi this pretty north coast town is tra trans­formed into a race­track for the Ban­ga­low Billycart De Derby. The event be­gan in 199 1994 when the town was by by­passed by the new Pa­cific High­way and is now a draw­card for thou­sands of visi­tors. Hun­dreds of keen driv­ers of all ages brave the town’s big hill with their crazy home­made carts in a bid to take out the ti­tle. May 15, b ban­ga­low­bil­ly­cart.com.au It’s a beauty pageant to­tally bas based on looks, with scant­ily cla clad male com­peti­tors flex­ing a few mus­cles to im­press the judges. The tongue-in-cheek Mr Beef com­pe­ti­tion, once laugh­ingly de­scribed as “the cul­tural event of the year” is a fun fundraiser dur­ing Casino Beef Week, a fes­ti­val fo­cus­ing on cat­tle and life on the land, and ded­i­cated to all things beefy, from show­cas­ing an­i­mals to pie eat­ing com­pe­ti­tions. There is also a much-cov­eted Beef Week Queen com­pe­ti­tion, a more se­ri­ous af­fair than Mr Beef, with en­trants judged on their pas­sion for the North­ern Rivers re­gion and life­style.

May 21-31, casi­nobeefweek.com.au Sheep rais­ing has shaped many regional com­mu­ni­ties in NSW, and Mer­riwa is a town that cer­tainly loves to cel­e­brate its woolly con­nec­tions. The Fes­ti­val Of The Fleeces, now in its 26th year, has a num­ber of high­lights, none more ex­cit­ing than the Run­ning Of The Sheep, which sees hun­dreds of sheep, many dressed in red socks, racing through the town to raise money for char­i­ties in­clud­ing the West­pac Res­cue He­li­copter. Other events in­clude a whip-crack­ing com­pe­ti­tion and sheep dog yard tri­als.

June 10-12, fes­ti­val­ofthe­fleeces.com.au For one day every Au­gust, the pop­u­la­tion in the iso­lated town of Louth in­creases fifty­fold as it hosts its an­nual pic­nic races. From a mea­gre 100, num­bers in the Dar­ling River town that’s lit­er­ally at the back of Bourke blow out to more than 5000 as peo­ple turn out for its big­gest day. Not only is there a Fash­ions on the Field con­test, there’s also Mr and Mrs Per­son­al­ity awards for the “loud and proud”. Then, when the race meet is over, ev­ery­one heads to Shindy’s Inn, a pub with a rep­u­ta­tion for stag­ing an ex­cel­lent party.

Au­gust 6, louthraces.com The 1994 film Priscilla Queen Of The Desert cer­tainly helped put Bro­ken Hill on the map, with much of the movie shot there. While a disco-danc­ing di­vas-in-drag cel­e­bra­tion may seem slightly in­con­gru­ous in such a quintessen­tially out­back town, the Sil­ver City em­braced its glit­ter-frosted his­tory at the in­au­gu­ral Bro­ken Heel Fes­ti­val last year. And it’s back for an­other year with drag queens and kings from around the na­tion, as well as danc­ing and com­edy events at the Palace and Sil­ver­ton Ho­tels, and the “Priscilla bus” will be on dis­play.

Septem­ber 9-11, bh­fes­ti­val.com

(From top) The Run­ning Of The Sheep at Mer­riwa’s Fes­ti­val Of The Fleeces; Ban­ga­low Billy Cart Derby; James Bond fans ready for Goul­burn’s SpyFest; Casino’s Mr Beef and Beef Week Queen for 2015; drag artist Philmah in Bro­ken Hill. Pic­tures: Stay ‘n Play Pho­tog­ra­phy (Mer­riwa), Chris Pavlich and sup­plied

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