Tamworth Country Music Festival
|Location(s)||Tamworth, Manilla, Kootingal Australia|
|Years active||1972 - Current|
|Date(s)||Friday 18 January to Sunday 27 January 2013|
|Genre||Country music, Bluegrass, Rock, Western swing, World music, Folk|
The Tamworth Country Music Festival is an annual music festival held in Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia and is a celebration of Australian country music culture and heritage. The festival lasts for two weeks during late January and during this period the city of Tamworth comes alive, with visitors from all across the country and worldwide who come to join in the festivities. The festival has many times been counted among the world's top ten music festivals. In 2007 Forbes rated it as number 8 of the World's Coolest Music Festivals. The enormous number of visitors during the bash doubles the city's population and brings significant economic benefits to the region. Visitor numbers for the 2012 festival were estimated at 50,000.
The mass number of visitors means that accommodation throughout the area is consistently booked out for this period up to 12 months in advance, with many visitors camping in caravans and tents by the city's riverside and numerous other temporary camping sites throughout the region. The festival is the second biggest country music festival in the world. A significant degree of national media coverage is given to the festival with all television networks showing the festival in the news. The commercial television stations Channel Seven, Ten and Nine have all broadcast shows and segments from the festival.
When the Tamworth Country Music Festival commenced is often debated. In 1968 the then Tamworth branch of the Modern Country Music Association, now the Capital Country Music Association (CCMA), began a talent quest on the Australia Day January Long weekend. The talent quest, now known as the CCMA National Talent Quest, is considered a major influence in what was to become the Festival in January 1973 with the first staging, by local radio station 2TM, of the Australasian Country Music Awards (aka the Golden Guitar Awards for its unique "golden guitar" trophy) as part of its Country Music Capital promotion which had commenced in 1969.
The festival expanded to many other activities, with events running back throughout the week before the Awards and National Talent Quest staged on what was then the Australia Day long weekend. These events included Bluegrass Championships, Hands of Fame inductions, the Roll of Renown, rodeo events, Coca Cola Concerts, Toyota Star Maker Quest, Tamworth Songwriters' Association Awards, busking in Peel Street, the Cavalcade and industry seminars among other events. These events were promoted to highlight Australian Country Music and to draw attention to the climax of the 10 days, the Golden Guitar Awards.
Radio 2TM ran the Awards until 1993 when they were passed on to the newly formed national industry organisation, the Country Music Association of Australia. The staging of the Golden Guitar Awards moved from Sunday to the Saturday night in the last full weekend in January as the Australia day public holiday was moved to float with the 26 January date.
Since the festival's original commencement the following music genres have been performed: Classic country, Bluegrass, Country rock, Folk, Urban country, Alternative country, Rockabilly, Western swing, Country rock'n'roll, Yodelling, Rock, Blues and World music. The festival has diversified in styles of country as the genre country music itself has broadened, additionally other styles of music are played at the festival.
Awards and Talent Quests
The CMAA's awards night ceremony is called the Country Music Awards of Australia in which winning artists are presented with Golden Guitars trophies that are miniature replicas of the Golden Guitar statue. These awards are highly coveted in the Australian country music industry.
The Peoples Choice Awards is a rapidly growing award ceremony which has now expanded to include Best DJ and Best Radio Station. This award ceremony uses a populist voting method which allows for fan involvement.
Other awards and talents quests include:
- Toyota Star Maker
- Telstra Road to Discovery
- No Holds Barred Fiddle Contest
- Telstra Queen of Country Music Quest
- Aristocrat Junior and Senior Entertainer of The Year
- Kids Talent Quest
- Country Entertainer of the Year
Main street - Peel St
During the music festival the main shopping street (Peel Street) is restricted to pedestrians only. In this area, Buskers are required to register with the local council. There is also a competition between these registered buskers to find the festival's best busker. There has been complaint and controversy about the use of very loud PA systems against acoustic performances. Council officers are known to walk the street with decibel meters during performances. Since January is a summer month with daytime temperatures regularly hovering around 38°C, it is during the nighttime that the city really comes to life, with people heading down town to drink, dance and generally party while numerous bands play up and down the main street. Country Music Parade 
The Festival Countdown
The Festival countdown is the 'pre-festival' festival. During this week before the festival many country music fans come to Tamworth to set up camp and enjoy the town, while there are also dozens of concerts scheduled during this week.
Besides the music the festival has many other attractions for visitors these include the Big Golden Guitar, the country music wax museum and the hands of fame park of successful country music artists. Additionally fine artists, crafts, street performers and markets attract large crowds in Peel St.
The Country Music Cavalcade on the last Saturday of the festival attracts large crowds to Peel St, with many businesses and musicians participating with floats in the parade.
During the build up prior to the commencement of celebrations, the Tamworth Regional Council takes steps to beautify and secure the city, performing such works as:
- Erecting signs to direct traffic away from hot spots, and reduce congestion.
- Pre-Festival advertising and promotional campaigns.
- Extensive road maintenance.
- Blocking traffic from four blocks of Peel Street, the central shopping district.
- Co-ordinating and tidying the expansive camping grounds.
- Co-ordinating with the CMAA (Country Music Association of Australia) in connection with events.
- Co-ordination with law enforcement and security bodies.
The Tamworth Country Music Festival each year attracts many country music, bluegrass, rock and folk musicians to the city. Performers perform at various venues in the city. The festival attracts over 800 different artists which perform over 5000 shows. Artists who perform regularly at the festival include Kasey Chambers, Troy Cassar-Daley, Lee Kernaghan, John Williamson and Colin Buchanan. The late Slim Dusty was also a regular. The festival is noted for being the launching platform of Keith Urban and Kasey Chambers' careers.
Tamworth Country Music Festival 2012
Many hundreds of musicians played at the 2012 festival at clubs, pubs and in Peel St, busking. Some of the better known artists that performed at the 2012 festival or have performed in the past include:
Tamworth Country Music Festival 2008
The 2008 Tamworth Country Music festival officially commenced on Friday 18 January and closed on Sunday 27 January. However the pre-festival countdown events started on Monday 14 January.
The 36th Country Music Awards winners were announced with a wonderful night of music and celebration including Troy Cassar-Daley's spine tingling performance with the Capital Country Music Association Choir and the all star Spirit of the Bush closing number  and a show-stopping duet performance between Gina Jeffreys and Guy Sebastian 
- "Forbes Traveler - World's Coolest Music Festivals". Forbes. Retrieved 7 September 2007.
- "Tourism Home". Tamworth Regional Council. Retrieved 27 December 2007.[dead link]
- "Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre (TREC)". Tamworth Regional Council. Retrieved 27 November 2007.[dead link]
- "Tamworth Regional Council Home Page". Tamworth Regional Council. Retrieved 3 September 2007.[dead link]
- Australian Stage
- Myspace video
- The Official Tamworth Country Music Festival Website
- Tourism Tamworth Website
- Tamworth Country Music Website