Rhonda and Rod Owen are a husband and wife team determined to breathe new life into the Mildura-Wentworth Country Music Festival after the show was forced online last year due to the pandemic.
They are encouraging amateur buskers to perform at Apex River Beach Caravan Park between 10am and 1pm each day this week, as part of the revival of the Victorian North West event.
“This is the first year that we have officially organized this walk. It is the first time that it has appeared on the festival programme,” said Ms Owen.
Official country artists took the stage between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. for sunset sessions.
“As you can see from the crowd, everyone loves it,” Ms Owen said.
“It’s so wonderful to see him be part of the festival and give people the chance to come and really get involved in country music. [and see] how they really like it.”
A positive note after the COVID “shock”
Mount Gambier residents Dorothy and John Hill had crossed the state line every year for the past 30 years to attend the festival.
Mr Hill said it had been a “disappointing shock” to break that streak in 2021.
“It starts again and that’s the main thing,” he said.
“We’re all elders, singing elder music.”
Ms Owen said music has helped her stay positive throughout the pandemic.
“We had our music at home, which was really sweet,” she said.
“And we knew there would be an end and that’s why I think this year it’s so important that we’re on the move with people.
“The love is there and I don’t know how many hugs I’ve had since we got here, but everyone hugs you. It’s just wonderful.”
The show must continue
Mildura Regional Development managing director Brett Millington said the festival, which has been running since 1994, has always had an “impact” on the local economy.
“Evidence shows that the week delivers a tremendous amount of benefit to the region,” he said.
“It comes directly from the visitors, but it also has a continuous ripple effect, which is fantastic after the last two years.”
Mr Millington said if there was one thing the region had learned from the pandemic, it was adaptability.
“We welcome live events with open arms and we love seeing Mildura doing what we do best and it brings people together,” he said.
“Things are looking up, the long weekend has been great and now we will see the continuation of a full schedule.”
Venues span the City Heart Shopping Center in Mildura, the Riverside in Wentworth and the Apex River Beach Caravan Park, with headline titles such as Rodney Vincent, Andrew Swift and Gemma Tiller.
This year’s installment ends Saturday, October 1.