COUNTRY fans partied it up at the opening celebration of the Toyota Country Music Festival, Tamworth in Bicentennial Park last night.
The party attracted thousands of music lovers and gave the crowd a sneak peek into what the festival offered this year, opening with husband- and-wife duo O’Shea who also hosted the concert.
Other artists included Jenny Mitchell from New Zealand, Damian Howard, Tamworth girl Aleyce Simmonds, US artists Elizabeth Cook and Craig Campbell as well as Telstra Road to Discovery winners Kelly Menhennett and Andrew Redford and Toyota Star Maker winner Bob Corbett.
The party wrapped up with Melinda Schneider and Adam Brand.
A special four-legged star stole the spotlight for some of the party in the form of Wildfire, a Brahman bull who lets little boys lie all over him, loves watermelon and toffee apples and isn’t a stranger to the loungeroom of his owner’s home.
Human special guests throughout the concert included NSW Acting Premier Andrew Stoner, Minister for Local Government Don Page, member for New England Tony Windsor, member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, aboriginal elder Neville Sampson who did the welcome to country, Tamworth Regional Council mayor Cr Col Murray who is a huge country music fan and the Tamworth town crier Errol Bourne who declared the festivities open.
The Queen of Country Music Quest entrants also danced at the front of the stage to get the festivities off on the right foot and raised the festival flag.
Artists didn’t have to look into the setting sun this year, with a new temporary stage set up on the western end of the park about 45 degrees from where they’ve watched the show for the past 20 years or so.
According to organisers, the Tamworth Regional Council events unit, the artists have looked straight into the setting sun every year from the old stage location – a sore point for years and one acknowledged in some preliminary masterplanning put into place a few years ago.
“The trial area is for this year because that major issue is the western sun on the stage all afternoon, and because of that it becomes very hot for performers up there,” events officer Catherine Burton said.
Ms Burton said the new set out would also allow for bigger crowds, with extra space now to the south, towards the re-juvenated ponds on the White St end.
The party continued well into the night and marked the start of 10 days of great country fun.