A Guide To The Tamworth Country Music Festival

This New England city is home to the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

The event is a pilgrimage destination for all good music-loving fans and no matter their taste for tunes. The 2016 event held between January 15 and 24 is set to be Tamworth's biggest yet. Here's everything you need to know.

The Country Music Capital

What comes to mind when you think of this inland city? No doubt it's boot-scootin’ country music merriment and one very large golden guitar. Tamworth is renowned as Australia's Country Music Capital and there are myriad ways to discover why Tamworth has been bestowed this title. No visit is complete without a photo-op in front of one of Australia's shiniest 'big things', the Big Golden Guitar. Don't forget to walk through the Gallery of Stars Wax Museum either. To honour the legends that have made lasting and significant contributions to country music, visit the memorial of the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown and Galaxy of Stars at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre.

The Festival

Tamworth swells to almost double its size thanks to one of the biggest events on the global music calendar: the Tamworth Country Music Festival. For more than 40 years, the festival has drawn music fans to the very best in country tunes, culture and heritage. The annual celebration is named as one of the world’s top music festivals, with over 50,000 visitors from across the country and globe keen to soak up the jovial atmosphere.

Across 10 days, Tamworth bursts to life in a spectacle of 800 performers playing at 2,800 shows in 120 different venues. The festival has become so large that it has extended to the nearby towns of Manilla and Nundle. Suffice to say, the variety of music is endless. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, if only to be swept up in the playful atmosphere of free outdoor concerts, buskers and market stalls.

What's On?

The festival attracts some of the biggest names in country music, alongside a heaping of home-grown talent, including Troy Cassar-Daley, The Mycclymonts and pop star Guy Sebastian.

Arguably the best place to begin your festival experience is Peel Street, Tamworth's main strip. Buskers line this boulevard, belting out melodies and bush ballads beneath a scorching summer sun, as market stalls heave with local artisans peddling handicrafts and cattlemen crack whips. Don your Akubra for the full experience.

Once you tire of Peel Street, head to one of the many sites in town to check out the acts. When it comes to the programme, pick up a copy of the Tamworth Country Music Guide or download the app on your smartphone. Events include tribute shows, including Go Your Own Way: The Story of Christine Mcvie, Fleetwood Mac's most famous songwriter, as well as emerging talent concerts. From West Diggers to Tamworth Town Hall, bars, clubs and council venues across the city feature a full-line up of performers. Consider throwing out the timetable and see who you stumble upon; you may just find your new favourite artist!

One of the most popular centres of the festival is the Toyota Fanzone, a mainstay experience on the festival calendar where visitors can rub shoulders with country music stars. Then there are also the free, family-friendly concerts in Toyota Park – BYO picnic rug and foldout chair for the shows.

However, star billing of the Tamworth Country Music Festival goes to the Toyota Golden Guitar Awards on January 23. You can purchase a ticket to this gala evening where the who's who of Australian country music gathers to see who'll pick up a coveted Golden Guitar Award. The intimate event also includes performances showcasing artists and songs that have helped shape the country music scene over the last 12 months.

How much are tickets?

Unlike other music festivals, Tamworth's famous festival has no gated activities meaning you don't need to purchase a ticket to attend. While some shows do come at a cost, there are many free performances amongst the thousands of shows, park concerts and street performances.

How do I get there?

Virgin Australia regularly flies direct to Tamworth Airport from most capital cities. Additional services between Brisbane and Tamworth have been announced on January 16, 23 and 24.

There's no better time to experience the best of this regional town than during the Tamworth Country Music Festival. But once all the fanfare dies down and revellers leave town, consider staying a few extra days as there is still much to see and do beyond the musical landscape. Think natural wonders, cultural attractions and an up-and-coming culinary scene. 

Words by Anna Howard - Published December 2015
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