IT’S the end of a golden era and the start of a new one for Caroline Singleton as she starts her retirement tomorrow.
Ms Singleton spends her last day as manager of the Big Golden Guitar Tourist Centre today after almost 14 years working different roles within.
She said it had been a privilege to oversee a key venue during the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and meet the thousands of people per year who visit the city icon.
“It’s a last day of mixed emotions. I will most certainly miss the people,” Ms Singleton said.
She started there in 2004 and has just done her 14th festival – the unique unit of time-measurement for people who are busiest in January.
Her co-worker Belinda Hamilton has taken on the role after having done seven festivals in the business herself.
Ms Singleton started in the coffee shop a few days a week back in 2004, then went into the gift shop, under then-owners Noel and Wendy Bennet.
“Wendy was good enough to show me the ropes, if you like, and then when Tom and Cynthia Coultan bought the business in 2011, they were good enough to give me the job as manager.”
Ms Singleton said she’d had insight into many lives in her role.
“Just meeting different people from all over the world and hearing their stories – it’s true that everybody’s got a story to tell,” she said.
“There’s been fabulous things that have happened – marriage proposals out the front of the Big Golden Guitar which we’ve had the privilege of sharing in ...
“There was one family a long, long time ago with a child who had a terminal illness. I think she was just a teenager.
“They sold everything to show her the whole of Australia before she died; show her how to live before she died.”
Then there have been the regular visitors to the coffee shop: church and men’s groups, birthday gatherings and more.
Key moments have included the introduction of the Bradman collection; working with the council to bring the information centre into the venue a couple of years ago; and putting on showcases out the front during the festival, where fans had the opportunity to meet the artists.
“We just really enjoy the atmosphere of the festival,” she said.
“For us, it’s hard work to get to the festival – organising; designing souvenirs and having them made; designing T-shirts; ordering music in – and then the festival is our party time.”
Ms Singleton’s next move is to do some house renovations, gardening and travelling – first to the coast with her mum for a bit of break, then to Tasmania.
“I wish Belinda all the very, very best and I’m quite sure that she’ll do an exceptional job, make it her own and learn to love it as much as I do,” she said.
Peter Greenaway, who has worked with Ms Singleton through his roles at Southern Cross 10 manager and the Tamworth Country Music Stakeholders’ Group, commended her hard work.
“She has done such a great job there, after Wendy Bennet did such a superb job before her,” he said.
“She’s been very supportive to all the country music festival and tourism.”