Breaking World Records in Tamworth, Australia
Australia is known for plenty of things – iconic architecture, unique wildlife among them – but few know about the record-breaking events that take place at the end of every January in a small New South Wales town. And the record they are trying to break puts a smile on my face every time I hear about it: the world’s largest country line dance competition.
This unusual feat takes place during the Country Music Festival in Tamworth, Australia. Tamworth is considered one of the world’s country music capitals – you wouldn’t overlook such a fact after seeing the massive golden guitar that announces your arrival into Tamworth. The city has hosted this event since the 1960s – it started out as just a country music concert – and in 2002 the country line dance was at its largest, including 6,744 participants. During the festival, the population nearly doubles in size – from a normal 56 thousand to over 100 thousand – as visitors come from all over the world to take part in the excitement.
Fun rodeo action.
Much of the excitement takes place along the main street of Tamworth. It’s packed from one end to the other with endless miscellany. If country line dancing is not your thing, fear not. You can explore a number of other “must-see” experiences, such as: tents lining the street filled with live snakes, which are poked and prodded to the cheers of the audience; a fully-fledged rodeo program, complete with several competitions and awards ceremony; kitschy arts and crafts venues, with many handmade items; and live music at any one of the bustling pubs.
Tamworth is also known as the city of lights, not because it has a glittering tower but because it was the first city in the southern hemisphere to use electric street signs. Besides the festival, Tamworth has a few noteworthy tourist attractions. Oxley’s Lookout is a scenic viewpoint perfect to spend the evening watching a sunset. The regional botanic gardens are worth a look, and don’t miss taking a quick day trip to see the old mill town of Nundle .
A scenic view from Oxley’s Lookout.
I find the festival and Tamworth itself such a refreshing experience of rural Australian culture. The locals are extremely friendly and the whole town has this exceptional buzz that even if you hate country music, you can’t help but enjoy yourself. The pubs are crazy: they stay full from lunchtime until late into the night and they often host quizzes and competitions throughout the day where you can win free drinks and other prizes. Just be sure to pace yourself – alcohol can dehydrate you quite quickly in the heat of the Australian sun.
Tamworth is approximately a 260 mile drive north of Sydney but you can also fly into directly into Tamworth on Qantas or take a Countrylink train. Hotels book up quickly during the festival so be sure to book well ahead of time – in some cases bookings are full a year in advance. Many regulars camp out at a massive caravan site arranged on the edge of town just for the event itself; as January is the peak of summer warmth, this might be a good alternative option if you want to really get a genuine feel for this event.