Tamworth Country Music Festival 50th anniversary kicks off after January COVID hiatus

The golden anniversary of the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest music festival kicks off today, after delays caused by COVID pushed it out of its usual place on the music calendar.

The 50th Tamworth Country Music Festival was scheduled to take place in January, but was postponed due to the Omicron variant running rampant across New South Wales during the holiday period.

But the date change hasn’t dampened the spirits of country music fans, and organizers believe the jubilee will be one to remember.

“Ticket sales have increased quite dramatically in the last few weeks,” said festival manager Barry Harley.

The festival injects millions of dollars into the Tamworth area’s economy, much of which was lost when the 2021 festival was largely cancelled.

Mr Harley said he expected the make-up of the crowd at this year’s festival to be different from that of regular attendees.

“We probably have a lot of newbies who will then make it their goal to come back for years to come,” he said.

But audience numbers may be affected by the coincidence of the new date with the Elvis Parkes Festival, which was also postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

gold chance

The festival has helped launch the careers of many Australian country music legends, including Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan and Beccy Cole.

This includes the annual Star Maker competition, which awards the winner with a full album deal among other prizes.

Newcastle-based artist Max Jackson was among the 10 finalists, and said it was “magical” to be selected, and to be able to perform live in the grand final.

Max Jackson holds a guitar and looks at the camera.
Newcastle-based Max Jackson, finalist of the Star Maker 2022 competition at TCMF.(Provided: Max Jackson)

“This will probably be the biggest audience I’ve ever been to,” he said.

Jackson said whatever the outcome of the competition, he was eager to return to the festival, which he had attended for years.

The final 10 also included Loren Ryan, a Tamworth-based Gamilaraay woman who combined her musical talents with her traditional language.

“It’s incredible to think that we have struggled for so long to preserve our language and keep it alive,” he said.

“Hearing it combined with beautiful music, you can’t help but get emotional.”

A young performer sings and plays guitar on stage in the center of tamworth
Loren Ryan of Tamworth is a first-time finalist in the Star Maker competition.(ABC Art: Alex Dick)

Industry advantages

The record was broken at the 50th Golden Guitar Awards.

Nominated in nine categories, Troy Cassar-Daley overtook the late Slim Dusty, and Lee Kernaghan, as the artist with the most gold guitars of all time.

Cassar-Daley has won 37 gold guitars, one less than Dusty and Kernaghan with 38 guitars.

Winners will be announced on Wednesday.

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