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
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