Often, a visit to a small Outback settlement can be transformed into an unforgettable occasion by a special event which is taking place there. Almost every Outback place that rates a mention on the map has its annual Race Day (sometimes horses, sometimes camels) and/or Rodeo, and there’s no better time to soak up the local atmosphere, not to mention getting some great photos. Here’s a picture I took at the Tibooburra Gymkhana and Rodeo a few years ago:
Of course special events are not limited to the Outback, and dozens of towns around the country put on a remarkable range of festivals, and assorted contests and novelty occasions which can be a load of fun to attend. If you’re planning a visit to a particular town, try to phone ahead (often the pub is a good place to start) and ask about any special events that are coming up. Of course a popular event may well mean that accommodation is hard to get, so give yourself plenty of time.
Stroud (NSW) has an annual Brick and Rolling Pin Throwing Competition (bricks for the men, and rolling pins for the women, as you might have guessed). Here’s one of the fairer sex showing a bit of form:
Here are a few special events I’ve been to or heard of, but you’ll have to use Google or other sources to establish whether they still occur, and if so, when. Booligal in western NSW has annual Sheep Races. The Festival of the Beanie occurs in Alice Springs. (For non-Aussie readers, a beanie is a knitted head covering.) Parkes (NSW) has the Elvis Festival, with dozens of Elvis impersonators in attendance. Stawell in the Grampians area of western Victoria hosts the annual Stawell Gift, Australia’s oldest and richest short-distance handicapped foot race. The Finke Desert Race is an off road, multi-terrain two-day race in the Northern Territory through desert country from Alice Springs to the Aputula Community at Finke, in which assorted vehicles are driven at alarming speeds. Deniliquin in southern NSW has its Ute Muster (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ute_muster), and I believe at one stage got into the Guinness Book of Records for the greatest number of utes with a dog in the back in one place, and also for the greatest number of people in one place wearing blue singlets. Sure makes you feel good to be an Aussie when you hear stuff like that.
One small town that punches well above its weight as far as special events go is Morundah (pop’n a few dozen) in the NSW Riverina. Apart from having last year hosted the Underbelly Ball, Morundah has annually since 2006 been home to opera performances, which are promoted as the only opera to be held in a pig pen. At Easter this year, Opera Australia will be performing Die Fledermaus in the (renovated) pig pen at Morundah. See http://www.morundahopera.com.au/events.html .
I’m sure readers can tell us about many other special events that are well worth a visit.