Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Queensland Outback prepares for eventful 2009

The temperatures are up in the Outback, and come April as they drop, it's the action that increases with festivals celebrating everything from music to opals and sporting events where horses, camels and humans are the stars. This is a bite size collection of what's happening in the Outback in 2009.

Julia Creek's popular Dirt 'n' Dust Festival (3 –5 April) returns for its 14th year in the tiny town in the north-west of the State complete with the popular Cow Poo Throwing Competition and Outback Bog Snorkelling Race. This annual festival is also famous for the Outback Triathlon, Australia's Best Butt Competition and PBR Touring Pro Bull Riding Rodeo.

Music lovers need look no further than the Hughenden Country Music Festival (10-12 April), an annual Easter Weekend event. Crooners of all ages compete at the festival which has 10 adult sections and four sections each for Junior and Juvenile contestants. The Grand Champion takes homes $2000 and the Junior and Juvenile Champions, $1000 each. There is also a People's Choice award and Encouragement award.

2009 welcomes back the biannual Cunnamulla Outback Masters Games (27 April-10 May) – the event with no participation criteria, except a minimum age and where one of the most popular events is the 470km bike ride from Cooper Creek to Cunnamulla. New events in 2009 will include woodchopping, kayaking and shearing.

Barcaldine's annual Tree of Knowledge Festival (1-4 May) enters a new era in 2009 when it welcomes home the main feature of its festival – the preserved remnants of the Tree of Knowledge which was tragically poisoned several years ago, are returning to the town. The Tree celebrates the town's proud history as the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party and this year the festival will include the opening of the Tree's new memorial. Visitors will also enjoy the Tree of Knowledge Race Cup, drag racing and the Speed Shears Competition.

The camels will be off and racing again at the famous Boulia Camel Races (17-19 July). The town's regular  population of 300 swells to 3000 for the weekend of racing which includes fireworks and entertainment. The event kicks off with a 400 metre Twilight Camel Race on the Friday night and continues over the weekend with Camel Race Heats for the Quarter Mile Flyer and Camel Cup. If you can't make July, pencil in August for the Hughenden Camel Races, now known as the Sheikh Zayed International Camel Endurance Race (21-23 August), where camels from around the world race for a $50,000 prize purse.

July is opal month in the Outback with the towns of Winton and Yowah each hosting festivals to celebrate our national gemstone. Opal Expo (7-11 July) in Winton, where the Boulder Opal was discovered, showcases the stone in the rough and polished form. Miners sell their opals from the back of their vehicles, there is street entertainment, competitions, dinners and fashions parades. The tiny four block town of Yowah – a two hour drive from Cunnamulla – also hosts an annual Yowah Opal Festival (17 –19 July) each year. Home to the Yowah Nut Opal which was first discovered here at the end of the 19th century, the festival celebrates our national stone and gives visitors the chance to talk to friendly miners, have a fossick themselves, check out priceless collections and enjoy entertainment and markets.

The Mount Isa Rodeo (7-9 August) plans to continue where it left off at its 50th anniversary last year – with plenty of action and adventure. The largest event on the Australian rodeo calendar attracts the best of local and overseas competitors for events at the multi-million dollar, purpose-built Buchanan Park rodeo arena that can accommodate over 5,500 spectators.

Join thousands of visitors who flock to the tiny Outback town of Birdsville for the annual Birdsville Races (4-5 September), an event which has been running since 1882. The remote location lures characters from all over who cheer on the winners and sleep under the stars for this nationally famous event.

Celebrate Cunnamulla's heritage at the end of year for the Cunnamulla Fella Festival (13-14 November). The Matilda Highway and Adventure Way lead right to this famous Outback town where a bronze statue of the 'Cunnamulla Fella' sits on his swag in the centre of town, immortalising the larrikin in all Australians. This action-packed Outback adventure is held in conjunction with the Bundaberg Rum Pro Series PBR Bull Ride.

For more information on these and other events in the Queensland Outback visit

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