THE uniqueness of the Tamworth Country Music Festival is what got it over the line in the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, according to Tamworth Regional Council mayor Col Murray.
The awards were presented in Hobart on Friday night and Tamworth was up against stiff competition from events in capital cities and Hamilton Island, but took home the Major Festival and Event category for the 40th festival.
“The thing about the festival is it’s fairly unique and fitted the criteria very well,” Councillor Murray said.
“It was certainly great to win and good for all the people who put in all the hard work. We were up against some pretty serious events so it was bloody good to win.”
There were 27 categories and the Major Festivals and Events category was third last on the night.
“All the NSW people were up one end of the room and we were all cheering for each other,” Councillor Murray said.
“We were the last of the NSW entrants and there were 850 people in the room. Everybody knows about the Tamworth Country Music Festival because the brand is so strong so there was a lot of clapping and cheering. NSW fared pretty well overall and we got a lot of support from the people from Scone and Moree and Hunter Valley.”
Councillor Murray said the award was very important to the festival and its organisers.
“There’s two really important things – a recognition of all the good, hard work that so many different people and organisations do, particularly the founders of the festival and those who’ve put so much energy into it in coming up with the concept and vision to make it what it is today,” he said.
“Equally importantly, it’s a really good testament to why we have great sponsors like Toyota, Qantaslink and Telstra and those really well-known brands, and the award is a great attribute when you go to negotiate with those people because it’s been named the best major festival or event in Australia.
“When you look at the people who put a lot of energy into the event like Barry Harley and the Rural Press Events team, The Pub Group, Wests Entertainment and all the pubs and clubs around town, Peter Greenaway who was the festival co-ordinator for that year, all the press that keep the thing alive and keep it on the national agenda, this just consolidates and strengthens the brand.”
Councillor Murray said council would probably nominate the festival again this year, with a lot of the other winners and organisations at the awards, having been there before.
“This is why we’ve got to keep it fresh, keep renewing and try new things, albeit with criticism for the changes in mind, because on a national front, those organisations are renewing and refreshing and have all the professional help under the sun,” he said.
Festival co-ordinator for the 40th TCMF Peter Greenaway said the success of the 2012 festival was “a reflection of the leadership and support we were given by council’s Paul Sullivan, the mayor and general manager and Rural Press Events general manager Barry Harley. Without them, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Mr Greenaway said the 40th year was the year organisers got the balance right between the old and new and engaged the locals and got the Peel St businesses involved.
Council’s business events manager Gavin Flanagan said he was “over the moon” with the announcement.
“I was very surprised because the calibre of different festivals we were up against was incredible,” he said.
“Given that the standard of competition was so high, I think we were outsiders and when I was sitting here on Friday night, following it on Twitter, I had my hopes up. We missed out on the Inland Tourism Award, but we won the NSW Tourism Award and to win this was
Mr Flanagan said it showed that festival organisers had to continually do more each year.
“This is recognition of everyone involved in 2012 festival and because it was the 40th, it’s also recognition of the past, the founders and right through to today. This is an award for the entire Tamworth community from council, to promoters, sporting and community groups who get involved and the Tamworth locals who have embraced the festival and taken it from strength-to-strength.”