THE local economy could take a $50 million hit as the future of Tamworth Country Music Festival 2021 sits on a knife's edge.
It's the latest event to come under question as a result of COVID-19 public health restrictions, that currently ban any non-essential travel as well as gatherings of more than two people.
Discussions about the future of Australia's biggest country music festival have started now, Tamworth Regional Council mayor Col Murray told the Leader.
"Tamworth is such a big event city by virtue of its location, it's natural we host some of the bigger regional events," he said.
"But at what point do we state that the country music festival for 2021 is definitely on, or definitely off?
"We will be working with other stakeholders in that event because the council doesn't wholly own the festival, it's owned by the community of Tamworth who contribute to it."
TCMF organisers estimate the event draws up to 50,000 people to the region for the 10-day event in January - doubling the city.
That influx of visitors adds more than $50 million to the economy, and is a huge contributor to the viability of local business, the council claims.
These are big decisions and it's too early to predict yet what will happen in 2021, there might be some stimulus packages to allow it to be bigger than Ben-Hur but that's unlikely.Mayor Col Murray
Event organisers and the council's own financial team are in the process of modelling the impacts of COVID-19 to try to predict what direction to take.
The festival relies on sponsorship, but with the pandemic forcing businesses into financial strain it's difficult to say what level of support is affordable, Cr Murray said.
"These are big decisions and it's too early to predict yet what will happen in 2021, there might be some stimulus packages to allow it to be bigger than Ben-Hur but that's unlikely," he said.
"You can bet your boots it will look different to what it was coming into the COVID-19 scenario."
With the event's 50th anniversary in 2022, the state government pledged financial support through Destination NSW in November last year.
A final decision could be months away, but the council will start conversations with major stakeholders to announce the plan for 2021.
At this stage the festival is set to take place next year from Friday January 15 to Sunday 24.
The festival also hosts the Golden Guitar Awards.