The early bird gets the shade. That’s certainly the case at the Riverside fields, as the first of thousands of campers expected for festival begin to arrive.
While the music and celebrations don’t officially start until January 19, Col and Heather Partridge have once again bagged what they believe to be the best spot on the river, the tree-lined bottom corner of Riverside 1, while Mun Sami has staked his favourite claim, three fields down under the viaduct.
The Partridges have almost become an ornament of the festival and Riverside corner, travelling 2000km from their Mission Beach base every year for the past 25 years, this year arriving last Wednesday.
Despite the fact that at 89 years of age Col drives the trip in two days because “we like to get this corner every year and because we don’t like to hurry down.”
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For the North Queenslanders the heat doesn’t bother them, and even if it did it would be a small price to pay for a festival that they love.
“We meet all our mates and friends here – the heat here is a site better than around Cairns – we sleep with a blanket on in Tamworth,” Mr Partridge said.
“The festival is always the same – bloody good. It is just excellent every year and we always look forward to it.”
While both enjoy the music, particularly Adam Brand for Mrs Partridge, it is the array of bush poets, the top yarns they spin, and the festival atmosphere that really floats the tourists boats.
“We just really enjoy the whole thing – the atmosphere, the music, and our friends,” Mrs Partridge said.
Three cricket fields down the road the story is very similar for Mun Sami, a Fijian country music fan and his American partner Pauline Porter, with both sharing the same passions – country music and good times.
The couple have been coming every year since they were flooded in during the 2006 festival, arriving early to pull up under the viaduct, with the large brick footings providing afternoon shade after the trees have done their job in the morning.
“We have been on the road ever since (2006) and we always come back. It is first come first served here, and we always get the viaduct – we love it here,” Mr Sami said.
“The country music, the people, the food – everything – we meet all our friends here and have a great time.”
A true traditionalist of the festival, Mr Sami believes the best part is watching the new and young talent coming through the ranks, starting off busking on Peel st and graduating to the clubs, pubs and shows.
“We always look for the new ones and young ones – the music is changing a bit, but that is the beauty of it, you can just pick and choose what you like and go for it.”