The small outback town of Winton went all out between 19 – 22 April 2018 to celebrate Waltzing Matilda. Winton is a friendly town 5 hours from Mount Isa, 6 hours from Townsville and 15 hours drive from Brisbane, Queensland.
A devastating fire in 2015 all but destroyed the old Waltzing Matilda Centre. Three years later, thousands of people trekked from across Australia and from overseas to celebrate the opening of the newly rebuilt $23 million Waltzing Matilda Centre that is now the pride of the Winton community once more. Mayors from across the North West came to support the Winton Shire Council in the opening. #WWOWF
The town swelled by the thousands with visitors and locals taking part in several action packed days of entertainment, celebrity encounters and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to mark the opening of the new Centre. The main street of Winton was cordoned off so visitors and locals could walk freely between the pubs, the bands, eating vans and shops. It was certainly one of the biggest events that the little town had seen in a long time.
Local pubs had entertainment galore with local artists, novelty entertainment activities, beer taps flowing and a buzz of activity. Aside from the opening of the Waltzing Matilda Centre, one of the great highlights of the weekend was the variety of street concerts and small pub entertainment options across Winton where crowds could mix with the artists on a personal level. There was also a country race meet and street markets.
The crowds were able to mix with artists like Busby Marou, Pierce Brothers, Charlie Worsham (USA), John Williamson, James Blundell and the Crack Up Sisters in the streets. There were so many events across Winton that it was difficult to get around and see everything, necessitating some very clever planning to make sure that you could get to see the line-up you wanted.
At night the entertainment was world class – literally – with top Australian and overseas names playing each night. Sheppard, Lee Brice (USA), Kip Moore (USA), The Black Sorrows,Charlie Worsham (USA), John Williamson, Brad Butcher, Busby Marou, Russell Morris, Jessica Mauboy, and the Living End played at the festival grounds, keeping the crowd dancing all night.
One of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities was to see Busby Marou invite James Blundell to the stage and together they whipped up a storm with Blundell’s hit ‘Way Out West’……………in Winton. An absolutely unforgettable version of the song with these top Australian artists jamming it out together.
There was some ironing out to do with the buses which didn’t seem to run as well as advertised, requiring some opportunistic riding of bulls back to the campground at the race track to get back from the town centre.
The Winton Club in Winton was the location of Qantas’ first Board Meeting on 10th February, 1921. The club has a variety of Qantas items on display including a sign that states ‘Qantas Board Room Lounge’, originally incorrectly spelled as the ‘Qantas Bored Room Lounge’. The incorrect inscription is still hanging in the Winton Club on the back of the sign that now displays the correct spelling. The lovely volunteers who served on the bar let us in on the secret and allowed us to look under the sign. The Winton Club is a must-do stop for aviation fans and frequent flyers.
There was a great deal of history to be found around Winton with Winton claiming to be the dinosaur capital of Australia. There is the Australian Age of Dinosaurs to visit, 24 kilometers south of Winton, the Diamantina Heritage Truck and Machinery Museum on the Hughenden Road and the Lark Quarry Conservation Park 120 km south west of Winton.
Camping options were available to cater for different needs. Tent City was right in the middle of the action between the festival grounds and town center. There were camp sites carefully drawn out in the middle of the race track with many visitors opting to stay at this site. The crowds were pretty well behaved considering how many people were camped in so close together. Praise goes to the Fairies who kept the showers and porta-loos so clean with the thousands of people who were camped in the one spot. They did an outstanding job, as did Nipper, our Camp Marshall.
For a small country town, the people of Winton know how to throw a great party!
With the great success of this event we can only hope that the organisers are planning for many more to come. I have left a little piece of my heart in Winton and hope to be back soon.
If you are headed for the Queensland outback soon then make sure you call into Winton. There are many hidden treasures to find in Winton. Stay awhile, talk to the locals and unearth the local secrets as there are plenty to find.
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Eumundi Markets – World famous markets on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
MOUNT ISA RODEO – An outback event not to be missed.
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