FESTIVAL FUN: Corey Maxwell, Kayden Munn and Paige Tanner on the Cunnamulla Fella statue.
FESTIVAL FUN: Corey Maxwell, Kayden Munn and Paige Tanner on the Cunnamulla Fella statue. Lucy Rutherford

Focus on kids makes Cunnamulla Fella Festival a huge success

THIS year's Cunnamulla Fella Festival has been hailed as the best one yet, with hundreds of tourists descending on the small town for the festivities.

Organiser, Barb Mason said the 1100 tickets sold in comparison to the 800 sold in 2018 was a testament to the quality of the festival in its 15th year.

"We've done things fairly different this year, we had a magician, circus and rodeo schools and for the first time the PBR mini bulls,” she said.

"Our focus for this year has really been on the kids and giving them plenty to do throughout the festival.

"Its' a way of making the town sustainable and setting up its future by giving the kids a reason to stay.”

One of the highlights for the younger generation was a bull riding school, instructed by PBR Rookie of the Year Lane Mellor.

"We also ran a shoot tour where rodeo legend, Angus Mitchell showed them around the big PBR bulls, stock contractors, cowboys and learn how the rodeo,” Mrs Mason said.

"They saw how safe the sport was and how pampered and how well looked after the animals are.

"People from Sydney were excited to be so close to the bulls.”

For the first time, a day at Eulo with its famous lizard races was factored into the festival, while about 500 people packed John Kerr Park for the PBR bull ride and entertainment headlined by Adam Brand and golden guitar nominee Dani Young.

"It's an interesting story how I'm here,” Young said.

"Karen who runs the caravan park saw my latest single online and fell in love with the song so she went to the council and said you have to get her out here.”

"They were all googling me and watching all my songs online and said alright, we need to get her here performing.

"It's my first time in Cunnamulla. The town is so friendly and welcoming, I love it. I jumped on the horse and carriage ride and was singing songs to people as we were going around town.”

Getting the word out there about the festival through extensive advertising, has seen feedback from the town hailing the festival as the best in its 15 year history.

"Locals have said it's probably been the biggest one in awhile and all our businesses were booming,” Mrs Mason said.

"We had tourists all the way from Mildura, and then some people from Tasmania who passed through a few days before the festival on their way to Lightning Ridge and then decided to come all the way back.

"They decided it looked too good to miss out on.”

Mrs Mason attributes the success of the festival to the diversity of events, and the contribution of community support and volunteers.

"All those who volunteered their time has been amazing because and our contractors PBR and rodeo services and Ahern contracting have been outstanding, a lot of the events wouldn't have been possible without them,” she said.

Hotels, motel and caravan parks were completely booked out for the weekend, with owner of Hotel Cunnamulla, Doug Faircloth saying the festival always put a spring in everyone's steps.

"The festival is fantastic for the community it introduces new fresh blood and puts our town on the map,” he said.

"Especially in the tough drought times we've been going through, it brings new life out there.

Mr Faircloth and his wife Fiona said the weekend more than doubled their usual revenue, with the annual festival being the town's biggest claim to fame.

"Everyone that travels through says it's great and comments there's nothing like the country lifestyle, fresh air, starry nights and country music,” he said.

"One of the caravan parks had over 200 people in it on the Friday night.

"You could see people spilling out of the local cafes and pubs, it was just fantastic to see.”

"It's so popular because there's really something for everyone.”

Thargomindah teachers, Sarah, Nicole and Leanne were happy to make the trip down for the weekend, in matching pink Gone Country shirts that their students get a real kick out it.

"We go to all the country things from around where we are and wear the shirts wherever we go,” Leanne said.

"It's important to support the locals and we get to have a look around at what the town has on offer.

"We wear the shirts every Wednesday at school, it's become a running joke that on Wednesdays we wear pink.”

Stall holder, Tricia Agar in her second year running at the festival said her original designs focus on all things country.

"I started the store, Bush Kids just to bridge that divide between the city and the country and highlight how much kids do in the bush,” she said.

Mrs Agar also runs a yearly calendar competition, which gives people the chance to send in a photo of their child in a bush related theme to win a month in the calendar.

"We raised $13,000 last year, and the kids chosen get so excited to see their photo in the calendar,” she said.

"In the bush, we'd be lost without the kids. They're our future.”

The Ergon team of Chris Allan and Charlie Lund claimed this year's Cunnamulla Fella championship, with Mirage Plains in second place and Landmark third.

The Cunnamulla Fella Challenge is always a highlight of the weekend's celebrations where teams of two battle it out in a serious of fun events including wool bale rolling; whip cracking; and cross-saw cutting.

"The hay bale rolling was definitely the hardest, we were already exhausted from running back and forth with huge bags of feed,” Mr Lund said.

"We haven't been in Cunnamulla long but we thought it would be good to have a local team competing, so when the boss asked us if we wanted to put our hands up and do it, we were more than happy to take the gig.”

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