Final fling: city gears up for frenetic festival weekend

Tamworth heads into its final festival weekend today with expectations that crowd numbers will remain at one of the highest for years and it will be capped by more Golden Guitar highs.

The 2014 festival started with a heatwave, kicked in with some scorchers and despite a welcome drop in temperatures in the past two days, the final couple of days look like making it one of the hottest hits in years.

Business has recorded solid figures, especially in food and beverage and in pubs and clubs, camping grounds have reported record early numbers and musos have recorded new happy highs.

On the street, police say festival fans have been well-behaved and there’s been a record low in arrests – and at camping grounds, visitors have welcomed more secure sites with low, if any, reports of petty crime. 

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Festival stakeholder group spokesman Barry Harley, a long-time festival events organiser, says a new spirit of co-operation has invaded this year, but while that might not have triggered a resurgence in visitor numbers, it has evoked a new spirited commitment to protecting the Tamworth “brand” and “created a positive vibe and a strong sense of cooperation between all the parties involved in the festival”.

Tamworth Business Chamber president Tim Coates said many smaller shops or restaurants who normally weren’t “discovered” by visitors until later in the festival had reported good early leadup business.

He said the economic impact of a great first lead-in weekend to the official festival had been great.

One international food franchise has reportedly said he’s had the best results in years this year.

At the Riverside camping area yesterday, site bookings had risen to just under 1000 by 9am, just shy of last year’s figures but with a solid early trend setting a cracking pace.

Festival director John Sommerlad said although there might have been some complaints, he hadn’t heard any about traffic or parking so far.

Other industry observers credit early planning, and a strong and bigger opening weekend and concert to launch the festival, as catalysts for a big crowd turning up earlier.

And they credit the 2014 anniversary milestone of Slim Dusty, and the festival event themes based on the former King of Country Music, as another major attraction this year.

Mr Harley said the part Slim Dusty and Joy McKean had played in the country music capital history couldn’t be underestimated as a magnet. The industry respected them and the fans loved them.

“Marketing has been solid, we have been able to get a unified message out, it’s still short of perfect of course, but there’s been no mixed messages. Everyone has pulled together and I think that we’ve all pulled together and the planets are more aligned,” he said.

“The surge in numbers, that momentum, in the first half of the week was like old times. It’s not back to halcyon days but still there’s a lot of good feeling about. It is one of the better feeling festivals.”

When it comes to crime, drunkenness and bad behaviour, new liquor accord rules including the lockouts and bans on high alcohol-content drinks, combined with a high-visibility police operation are credited with delivering good results throughout the festival precinct.

Operation Portage forward commander Inspector Stuart Campbell said there had been a limited number of arrests.

“Police are praising the behaviour of festival patrons, the crowd behaviour has been excellent with little to no adverse reactions,” he said. “There have been move on directions issued and intoxicated persons asked to leave, but overall the behaviour has been fantastic.”

He said the economic impact of a great first weekend to the official festival had been great.

One international food franchise has reportedly said it’s had the best results in years this year.

At the Riverside camping area yesterday, site bookings had risen to just under 1000 by 9am, just shy of last year’s figures, but with a solid early trend setting a cracking pace.

Festival director John Sommerlad said although there might have been some complaints, he hadn’t heard any about traffic or parking so far.

Other industry observers credit early planning, and a strong and bigger opening weekend and concert to launch the festival, as catalysts for a big crowd turning up earlier.

And they credit the 2014 anniversary milestone of Slim Dusty, and the festival event themes based on the former King of Country Music, as another major attraction this year.

Mr Harley said the part Slim Dusty and his wife Joy McKean had played in the Country Music Capital history couldn’t be underestimated as a magnet. The industry respected them and the fans loved them.

“Marketing has been solid, we have been able to get a unified message out – it’s still short of perfect of course, but there’s been no mixed messages. Everyone has pulled together  and the planets are more aligned,” he said.

“The surge in numbers, that momentum, in the first half of the week was like old times.”

It’s not back to halcyon days but still there’s a lot of good feeling about. It is one of the better feeling festivals.”

When it comes to crime, drunkenness and bad behaviour, new liquor accord rules including the lockouts and bans on high alcohol-content drinks, combined with a high-visibility police operation are credited with delivering good results throughout the festival precinct.

Operation Portage forward commander Inspector Stuart Campbell said there had been a limited number of arrests.

“Police are praising the behaviour of festival patrons, the crowd behaviour has been excellent with little to no adverse reactions,” he said. “There have been move on directions issued and intoxicated persons asked to leave, but overall the behaviour has been fantastic.”

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