From the dust came food, wine and frolic on 21-23 February in Tumbarumba as thousands of visitors from throughout Australia joined locals to celebrate everything the small mountain town has to offer.
As sobering as the drive in may have been, with towering eucalypts, miles of pine forest and debris silently bearing the dark scars of the calamitous January bushfires, officially declared extinguished on February 15, the town’s doors were welcomingly wide open to everyone willing to spend a dollar.
Barely a seat or a beer could be found from around 4 pm Friday as the Tumbarumba showgrounds became a swarming mass of hats, boots, western shirts and skirts as the Blaze of Glory Rodeo literally kicked off.
Rodeo president Tim O’Brien estimated around 2500-3000 people attended the fundraiser, which attracted competitors from as far west as the Kimberley Region and tested the talents of several locals in the RFS steer ride plus 22 tots who braved the poddy calf ride.
But the applause thundered when Rosewood’s Tim Hammond and Tooma’s Brad Pierce – both Australian Pro Rodeo Association riders – stepped up for the Open Saddle Bronc.
Entry was free, thanks to $17,000 funding from the NSW Government’s Drought Resilience fund, which meant gold coin donations at the gates raised $5000 for the Tumbarumba Rotary Bush Fire Appeal.
“I went to Tumbafest the following day for a few hours and the feedback was amazing, people kept saying how great the show was,” he said, “I know that after the rodeo the pubs and clubs were packed.”
Waiting time, About Region understands, was half an hour for drinks, not just at the rodeo but the licensed premises.
Tumbafest – the town’s annual music, food and wine festival – might have seen a few more dusty people than usual Saturday morning, but not an inch of room could be found at the food markets come lunchtime, tables and seats were highly sought after and the creekbanks like a Where’s Wally puzzle, complete with five very obvious Wallies in stripes, spectacles and bobble hats.
Tunes echoing from the main stage set the pace for two lazy days of eating, drinking and snoozing under the shade with a ripple effect of supporting many of the town’s service, sports and community clubs.
Event coordinator Karly Fynn was thrilled with the response.
“It was incredible, there were so many people there supporting the town after the bushfires and the event – we had about 6500 to 7000 people over the two days it was one of the biggest Saturday’s on record – we are still on a high from the event,” she said.
She said people travelled from as far away as Queensland and Western Australia, ACT and Victoria.
“It was a great opportunity for locals as well – to bring people to the town to experience and see the devastation of the fires, then also get together and celebrate what’s still left and what a great community Tumbarumba is,” Karly added.
Headlining the acts was Kate Ceberano. But Karly said Kate’s contribution to the community went beyond her performance.
“She went through markets and bought a few things, stayed overnight and ate at Café Nest – so she really embraced Tumbarumba which was really fantastic,” she said.
Another highlight was the auction of a signed guitar, donated by The Wolfe Brothers, which raised $3400 for the Tumbarumba Rotary Bush Fire appeal.
“The lady with the winning bid was from the Blue Mountains – so they have also been through the fires that ripped through the country and she was bidding against a lady from Tumbarumba who had lost her house – it was amazing that two people who had experienced the fires first hand giving back.”
That combined with Kate Ceberano’s donation of $15,000 and funds raised through a barbecue brought the total raised from Tumbafest to $25,000 for the bushfire affected community.
Beyond that – the impact of both events on the community – in terms of spending and emotional solidarity, locals agree, was a shot in the arm they all needed to push through 2020.