As the anticipation continues to build for Friday’s festival kick-off so to does the Tamworth population, with Peel st, the shopping centres and the Riverside Campgrounds already starting to burst at the seams.
Once again Mayor Col Murray opened the Riverside Campgrounds a day early on Thursday, following the installation of 35 portable showers and 90 portable toilets to compliment the existing sporting clubhouse facilities.
At the time the gates were officially opened there were already 33 camp vehicles placed around the grounds, while council had recorded 272 pre-purchased sites.
That is more than double the 131 that had been booked online this time last year, the first time pre-booking was available.
A council spokesperson said “about 1300 sites are expected to be occupied this year.”
“In 2017 there were 1343 sites sold with about 3250 campers. There is capacity for as many as 1500 sites.”
Over the weekend hundreds more flooded through the gates, including Central Coast teenagers Ethan Medina, Siti Moceivei and Jay Lang, on their second trip to the country music capital.
“We came early last year as well to get a good spot, and we got the same one,” Mr Medina said.
“We love the atmosphere, the music, just walking around town having a look and the campground – it’s awesome – a good view, walking distance to everything, plenty of room to kick a footy, and we can jump in the river when it is hot.”
While the influx of early campers is great for the festival and the local economy, there are some people who have again been left questioning council's commitment to their operations, particularly after proposing a controversial Festival Levy.
Owner of the Paradise Tourist Park Taryn Judd wants to see some clarity on the rules surrounding free camping at Riverside, with some early arrivers free camping at the grounds since Boxing Day.
“I am not against council opening the camping grounds early, but I would like to see those free campers that come early moved into parks around the region,” she said.
“There are plenty of free camp sites outside of the city, but within the city limits we would like to see them supporting local businesses.”
While the operator is anticipating having a near full park throughout the festival, she believes that tourist parks as far out as Walcha and Quirindi would benefit from the free campers being moved out.
“Our peak season is only a fortnight over festival and it is a big part of our income. If Council want a Festival Levy then they can think about the impact those decisions have on businesses that are paying rates and providing employment all year – There has got to be a better solution.”
Council declined to comment on the free campers.