The AGM of the Riverland Country Music Club is being held at the Cobdogla Club on Thursday the 23rd of August at 7.00 pm, and the organisers are hoping to attract more members to the committee. The committee are looking for volunteers with a range of skills and a willingness to learn how to put together a festival of this size, which runs for ten days, and attracts music fans from all around Australia. The festival is the largest of its kind in South Australia and is recognised as one of the most successful on the national country music circuit.
Following the success of the 40th anniversary of the 2018 South Australian Country Music Festival at Barmera plans are already in place for next years festival and New Talent Awards.
The organisers are keen to expand the festival to include events in other Riverland towns, so that it can grow in strength, and attract greater numbers, with other towns benefiting from the economic boost to the Region. The plans include booking a wider range of artists who will have more appeal to the younger generation, and to the locals who do not currently attend the festival. They are also keen to showcase more local talent.
The success of this year’s festival was attributed to the 40th anniversary celebrations and the tributes to Rocky Page, to the quality of entertainment, the wide number of venues, and to the larger number of visitors who attended the festival. The inclusion of the sheep dog trials on the long weekend, and the sheep run down the main street also attracted lots of people to Barmera. The entertainment in the street with the ute muster and classic cars display kept people in town longer, and the whip cracking demonstration and try out attracted lots of interest.
The inclusion of a fitting tribute to ‘the father of the festival’ Rocky Page by Ricky and Tammy (aka the Kingston kids), at the induction ceremony on Saturday was followed by the induction of International singer songwriter Darin Warner and his father Sarge into the South Australian Hall of Fame, and the induction into the Maple Avenue of Honour of Phil Turpin and Dennis Wutke, who were acknowledged for their years of service to the Riverland Country Music Club.
Darin and Sarge both live in Loxton but spend most of the year performing in the US on the Country Music Circuit, in places like Nashville and Vegas, Darin who performs all his owns songs has topped the charts with several of his cd’s in America and Europe, and he rubs shoulders and tours with some of America’s top celebrities. His appearance at the festival was the first on his native soil for many years. He and Sarge brought Nashville to Barmera this year and got a standing ovation at the KIX Country SA Country Music Spectacular on Sunday.
Ricky and Tammy made their first appearance at the festival for a very long time. They were Rocky’s most successful students, and toured with Slim Dusty, and appeared relarly on national television and performed at top venues around the major cities in Australia in the 60’s. The Kingston Kids reached international status when they toured overseas at the peak of their singing careers. Ricky said Rocky Page was their mentor and inspiration. They still perform once a month at Tammy’s island restaurant on the Hawksbury River which is now in the hands of Tammy’s family. Kingston Estates sponsored their return to the Riverland so that they could participate in the tribute to Rocky.
Former 5RM presenter, Peter Healy, a colleague of Rocky Page, also flew in from Sydney for the tributes. He composed a beautiful song about Rocky, which he performed for a very appreciative audience.
One of the highlights at the Spectacular at the Barmera Club on Sunday was the cutting of the 40th anniversary cake by Mayor Peter Hunt and Nan Harding. The cake was made and donated by Julie Tsorotiotis from Loveday in the shape of a guitar and boots and had everybody on their feet with their camera’s flashing, and eager to try a slice. It was truly spectacular as befitting the event.
The numbers participating in the New Talent Awards was down a bit, but the committee is keen to promote it more, and is in the throes of negotiating scholarships again at the Tamworth Academy for the winners.
The festival would never have been so successful without the dedication of the committee, and the help of artists like Olive Bice and her fellow performers, with the help of the backing bands who ran concerts on behalf of the committee, Murray and Dot Mac for organising venues, the people who assisted the committee at the festival, and at the fundraisers throughout the year, the performers who participated, the Berri Barmera Council for the use of the Bonney Theatre and their financial backing, the Barmera VIC for taking bookings and selling tickets, the media who publicized the event, and the sponsors and businesses who supported the festival. There are so many people to thank. Without their help there would not be a festival, and as a result, no visitors to the area on their annual pilgrimage to Barmera.
Since the festival is held in Barmera at the coldest time of the year when the parks and hotel and motels would normally be nearly empty, holding the festival during that time brings people flooding into town from all over Australia, just to participate, and they boost the local economy enormously. They also left town this year singing our praises and saying it was the best festival they have attended in Barmera for a very long time.
The committee is keen to have more people on board to lighten the load and bring fresh new ideas. They all work voluntarily but enjoy a great deal of satisfaction in putting on an event that brings so many people to our region and love the great entertainment and fellowship that running a festival provides. It may not have the reputation of Tamworth or some of the larger festivals, but it has always been known as The Friendly Festival, and even the artists love the more relaxed informal atmosphere. The fans also get to mingle with their idols.
Rosemary Gower, President of the Riverland Country Music Club on behalf of the SA Country Music Festival & New Talent Awards.