- Accommodation. There is a lot of accommodation in Tamworth
but it's not that easy at festival time,
given many people book for next year when they book out.
But there are lots of cancellations too.
Firstly, you need to choose between hotel, motel, home stay, renting a room,
renting a whole house for say six people (there are a surprising number of these)
or just camping or staying in a caravan park.
Once you get this sorted out and have booked something,
everything else will fall into place.
Unless they know you from previous years,
you normally have to pay in full before Christmas.
- Camping. There is plenty of space allocated for camping
during the festival.
Except that some of it is in the flood area,
so if it's raining heavily and you get asked to move in the middle of the night
they are not joking (no practical jokers please).
- Staying Out of Town. A lot of people stay in the neighbouring towns.
Driving half an hour is not a problem.
- Australia Day. This is a big event in Tamworth.
Get something Aussie to wear around town on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd
and buy some decorations and flags for the car.
Celebrate the founding of Australia day
and don't listen to deluded activists who want to alter the day's meaning
or move the date away from celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet.
- Tickets. Given the advent of on-line booking,
a lot of people are buying their tickets before they leave home.
This does mean the popular things could be sold out
before the festival even starts.
However, there is a helpful ticket office in the main street,
and another at the Tourist Bureau at the Golden Guitar.
There are plenty of tickets available to interesting things,
not to mention that most things are actually free anyway
or the tickets are only available at the door.
For events at the Longyard Hotel, buy tickets at the bottleshop next to the pub.
For the paying shows at Wests there and Diggers is a ticket box in the foyer at Wests,
or buy tickets on-line.
Be aware that the sale of tickets at the Town Hall just before shows
is painfully slow and it might help to buy elsewhere in advance.
- Planning. Decide what you would like to see.
This is much harder than it sounds.
Tamworth has a lot of country music styles all rolled
into one big festival so there is something for everybody.
For the first three days you will see people frantically
thumbing through their programmes as they try to solve this problem.
Start from the ends - tick the stuff you must see
and cross off stuff you never want to see.
Cross off things that are booked out.
Draw up a rough programme with one thing every morning, afternoon and night.
- Ignore your friends who hate country music
or think it's beneath their dignity.
They think it's silly to wear cowboy hats
and pretend you're in Texas or in the outback.
Remind them of all the rappers
who pretend to be gangsters and criminals,
all poverty stricken like,
and living on handouts in the ghettos of New York.
Tell your friends you are going to hear some twang music -
they won't really know what it is, but they do know you like it.
- Listen, Watch and Read.
Play all your country CD's. Watch CMC. Listen to country music on the radio.
Buy Country Update and Cap News at a big newsagent.
Surf the net for the Tamworth web sites or for your favourite stars.
Try to decide what sort of country music you really like.
Here's a Blues Brothers joke from 1978: "I like both types of music,
country and western."
- Youtube Videos.
There is a surprising amount of stuff filmed at
previous Tamworth Festivals available on Youtube.
You could spend the rest of your life just watching Youtube.
Look up your favourite artist or venue and see what you can find.
- Driving Up from Sydney. It's about 420 Km.
Pick out a pile of favourite CDs to play or put it all on a memory stick.
A lot of people will tell you how they drive up to Tamworth
in three or four hours but they are liars.
First Hour: See how long it takes to drive to the middle
of the Hawkesbury River bridge.
For me it's now a few minutes over an hour,
plus 10 minutes more in peak hour, and even more when it's raining.
Second Hour: It's roughly another hour on the freeway.
The new Hunter Valley Expressway has opened,
so you must turn left at the signs
and you will come out at Aberdeen,
thus missing Maitland and a lot of highway with speed limits.
Alternatively, it's only a few minutes more to the traffic lights
at the end of the freeway.
At this intersection you go straight ahead for Tamworth via Maitland,
or turn right for Hexham and the Pacific Highway going up the coast.
Third Hour: You have to drive right up the Hunter valley.
There is a succession of historic towns including
Singleton, Muswellbrook, Scone and Murrurundi.
Scone is the halfway point in distance, so take a break around that time.
Fourth Hour: The last town in the Hunter Valley is Murrurundi
and just after this you climb up a steep hill
and reach the top of the valley and the start of the tablelands.
Fifth Hour: Past the Hunter Valley,
the countryside is noticeably different and it's less than 100 Km to Tamworth.
Look out for speed cameras in the townships but it's a pleasant drive.
There is an independent petrol station on the left;
it might be worth topping up before Tamworth
and they have good meat pies as well.
The total time is between five and six hours including a break.
Perhaps 30 minutes more if you don't go on the new expressway.