11 March 2023

Crookwell banks on the past to help survive its rural future

| Sally Hopman
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Crowd in main street of Crookwell

They came from everywhere for the first Crookell Country Weekend in 1983. Were you in the crowd? Can you see yourself? Photo: Upper Lachlan Shire Council.

It was the year 1983. Bob Hawke had just become PM, an odd-looking winged keel had just sunk the dreams of rather a lot of Americans, Humphrey B. Bear could draw a crowd of thousands without saying a word and out Crookwell way, the small country town – up until then famous for little more than its spuds – was bursting at the seams.

If ever anyone was after proof that city folk – and it seems in 1983, most everyone – loved a great weekend in the bush, it was that event – the first Crookwell Country Weekend.

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Black and white images show a town not only bursting with visitors, but with pride, as thousands flooded in to see the best of what the town had to offer.

From shearers fleecing sheep aboard the back of a truck during a grand parade down the main street to that funny old TV bear wearing a smart hat but no pants, it was the place to be.

But by 2011, someone chipped in with the idea to rename it the Potato Festival and the town was off again. Drawing in visitors for the special weekend in March, with the best of country life on show.

Woman with stack of books and fans

Author Anne Souter signed copies of her best-seller, The Gourmet Potato for fans at the first event in 1983. Photo: Upper Lachlan Shire Council.

Over the years, Crookwell has done it tough. Droughts to flooding rains, to snow (when the festival was held in October one year) have postponed, delayed and cancelled the event, with, even worse still, storms, more floods and COVID-19 putting paid to new plans to stage it. But next weekend, 18 and 19 March, it’s back, bigger and better than ever.

The plan is to make the weekend a sustainable event, Upper Lachlan Shire Council Mayor Pam Kensit said.

“We want it to be on the calendar so it’s something people can look forward to attending every year,” she said.

“An event that will bring our visitors back and one that helps the region survive and prosper.”

Man shearing sheep on a truck

Showing how shearing is done drew a huge crowd to the first Crookwell Country Weekend in 1983 – and is expected to again next weekend. Photo: Upper Lachlan Shire Council.

First off the blocks is the street parade on Saturday 18 March, from 9 am. Buskers of all ages will line the streets, vying for $3000 in prizemoney and the chance of a recording session at the Old Binda Recording Studio in Crookwell.

The main street will close to traffic from 10 am for the street parade, featuring floats, vintage cars and motorcyles as well as a host of performers making their way along Goulburn Street.

It wouldn’t be a true-blue country weekend wthout an Absolute Beaut Ute Competition. The utes will go on display in Spring Street from about 11:30 am.

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From about 2 pm, visitors are expected to flood into the showground for the afternoon/evening concert featuring some of the nation’s top performers such as legendary Australian musician Ross Wilson of Daddy Cool fame, country music star Shannon Noll and to finish off the night, The Colours of the Outback, a 15-minute performance of pyrotechnics, flames and visual imaging synchronised to live music by the legendary Top End drum and bass outfit eMDee.

Visitors on Sunday will be treated to a country fair, also at the showground, where some of the best produce from the Southern Tablelands region will be on offer along with a special celebration of rural life through the ages.

Crookwell Country Weekend poster

Crookwell Showground will be the place to be on Saturday 18 March for an 8-hour live concert featuring some of the best of the nation’s entertainers – from Daddy Cool’s Ross Wilson to Shannon Noll and Isaiah Firebrace, Catherne Britt to The Bushwackers. Photo: Supplied.

Also on Sunday, the Crookwell Amateur Dramatic Society will perform Once Upon A Jumbuck on centre stage, along with more live music from some of the Saturday concert bands such as The Bushwackers and eMDee, along with bushranger re-enactments by the 7th Light Horse Gundagai Troop, using a Cobb and Co coach from Travealy Horse Drawn Carriages.

Festival ticket sales are available through trybooking.com as are a variety of accommodation options, including glamping.

For more informatuon about the 2023 Crookwell Country Weekend, go to the Upper Lachlan Shire Council website.

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