It doesn't get better than this!
Every January for more than 44 years, tens of thousands of music fans have gathered in Tamworth to take in the unforgettable atmosphere of the Toyota Country Music Festival.
The numbers are remarkable: the 10-day event now attracts 55,000 visitors to see 700 performers (including buskers) at 2600 shows across 120 venues. It’s one of the world’s biggest country music festivals.
There are outdoor concerts headlined by the industry’s biggest names, buskers and market stalls in the CBD, and the chance to get close to your favourite artists in the dynamic Fanzone precinct. The festival has even expanded to the nearby towns and villages including Nundle.
Country music’s night of nights is the Country Music Awards of Australia, the Golden Guitars. The stars walk the red carpet, take the stage as presenters and performers, and maybe even accept a Golden Guitar and join the ranks of the more than 400 winners since 1973.
Put the Toyota Country Music Festival on your bucket list. It must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
Choose your rhythm in the Country Music Capital
Apart from the festival, there is plenty to see and do in the Country Music Capital of Australia.
Naturally, you’ll take a photo in front of the Big Golden Guitar at the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre.
Go inside to the Gallery of Stars Wax Museum and check out the likenesses of Smoky Dawson, Buddy Williams, Jimmy Little, Beccy Cole, Chad Morgan and dozens more, with original outfits, settings and personal histories that reflect their lives and times.
What do the country music legends think of Tamworth? Browse the wall of signed guitars from world-known performers including Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Lee Kernaghan, Kasey Chambers, John Williamson, Troy Cassar-Daley and Keith Urban, and read their thoughts.
At Tamworth Visitor Information Centre, pick up a trail map of the city’s many country music landmarks. It will take you on a journey through the Australian industry, from its beginnings to today’s heights.
There’s the Galaxy of Stars – the top names in country music honoured with bronze plaques outside Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre. There, you will also find the Roll of Renown Rocks, where artists are recognised for their significant contribution to the industry.
Take a walk up Tamworth’s lovely tree- and café-lined Peel Street and spot the plaques in the pavement celebrating Golden Guitar winners and our iconic country music characters set in bronze. The Smoky Dawson memorial seat statue is the work of gifted sculptor Tania Bartlett. The statue, unveiled in 2012, recognises the outstanding contribution of the late Smoky Dawson to the Australian Country Music Industry. Unveiled at the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival, the bronze statue of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean, is a permanent tribute to two of Australia's icons of country music.
In Bicentennial Park you can visit the Legends of Country Music – bronze busts of greats such as Tex Morton, Stan Coster and Reg Lindsay. Nearby, see how your prints match up with the Country Music Hands of Fame, where new inductees leave their mark during the festival every year.
Save plenty of time for the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame, actually housed in a guitar-shaped building. It’s Australia’s biggest collection of country music memorabilia and artefacts. More than 40 exhibits give real insight into the greats – their personal effects, instruments, early footage, photos, costumes, recordings and posters. The Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame pays tribute to those who have helped shape country music in Australia, and the Walk a Country Mile gives an interactive, chronological display – described by one visitor as “a fabulous step back in time”.