THE PEOPLE are what Des and Joyce Gilfillan are going to miss the most, after the pair handed over the keys to Tamworth's iconic Oasis Hotel.
The couple bought the watering hole more than 26 years ago to run as a family business - they even lived at the hotel for 13 years. They guessed about 90 per cent of their patrons are regulars.
For the hotel known around the country music capital as the home of the bush balladeers, the Tamworth Country Music Festival has been a highlight year after year.
"Country music was a big thing, repeat customers would come back every year and it was like a big family reunion, people came from all over Australia and met up at the Oasis," Mrs Gilfillan said.
The famous wet t-shirt competition was held during the festival as well, a tradition outlasting even the Gilfillans' reign and raising money for local charities.
The previous owners put up the 'sold' sign on Monday with family by their side.
"It was quite sad in a way, but age and health got the better of us," Mr Gilfillan said.
The couple joked they probably worked "100 hours a week" at the Armidale Road hotel.
"We acted like one of the customers and enjoyed it but we ran with strict rules and we stuck by those rules and it served us well," Mr Gilfillan said.
He described the moment the family officially sold the pub as emotional, with a bit of relief mixed in.
"But I think the grand kids are just worried about no more free cordial and chips," Mrs Gilfillan said.
The couple moved inland almost three decades ago from a dairy farm on the east coast, to start their careers as hoteliers.
"My husband always wanted to buy a hotel but I wasn't so keen with two young children," Mrs Gilfillan said. "I guess he won out."
Mr Gillfillan said buying and running the Oasis had been everything he had hoped, and more.
"I thought I knew a little but I knew nothing, so we learnt as we went and I learnt by mistakes and when you stay one place for that long you have to enjoy it," he said. "I wish I'd done it earlier."
The couple said they were now retiring and hoped to spend time on the coast before heading out west. But, they're sure they'll be calling in at the Oasis every now and again.
"We'd like to wish the new owners well," Mr Gilfillan said.