REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Outback Queensland set to burst into tourist life

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Planning is well underway for Australia's richest rodeo - the 2021 Mount Isa Mines Rodeo August 12-15, 2021. Photo: Stephen Mowbray

Planning is well underway for Australia's richest rodeo - the 2021 Mount Isa Mines Rodeo August 12-15, 2021. Photo: Stephen Mowbray

After the year that wasn't, North West Queensland is determined to go ahead with its event season in 2021.

Currently most towns in the region are dealing with either 40 degree heat or cyclonic flooding but come the end of March, the weather settles down and the visitors flood in.

Tourism is the lifeblood of many small towns and each one has a weekend (or longer) when its own quirky festival attracts the biggest crowd.

Although the region has so far escaped scot-free from the pandemic as far as cases go, almost all festivals were cancelled in 2020 due to the fear that large infected crowds would overwhelm already stretched health services.

The town of Julia Creek, 250 kilometres east of Mount Isa, normally gets the ball rolling in April with its Dirt N Dust Festival centred around one of the toughest triathlons in the business.

It was one of the first events to be canned in 2020 and sadly they have had to cancel again in 2021, though this time not just because of COVID.

A brand new committee felt it needed another year under their belt before they try out their tricks.

But other events across the region will go ahead in 2021.

The biggest event of the year in Mount Isa is the annual rodeo in August and it is the richest rodeo in the southern hemisphere.

It went ahead in virtual fashion in 2020 where competitors videoed their routines and the result was livestreamed around when the rodeo should have been held. It was an online success but organisers can't wait to bring the real thing back this year in COVID-safe fashion.

A further 700km south down in Birdsville, they have two major events: the Big Red Bash and the Birdsville Races. Both are set to run this year and both attract almost 10,000 to the town of 150.

The sold-out Bash in July headlined by Paul Kelly will take place with the spectacular backdrop of a Simpson Desert sand dune and is billed as the "most remote music festival in the world".

OUTBACK GLAMOUR: Mount Isa's Cheryn Ramsay and Jen Verana cut a dash at the 2019 Birdsville Cup races.

OUTBACK GLAMOUR: Mount Isa's Cheryn Ramsay and Jen Verana cut a dash at the 2019 Birdsville Cup races.

As for the races in September they are known as "the Melbourne Cup of the Outback" (and sometimes "schoolies for grey nomads").

Races organisers are hopeful of releasing tickets for the 2021 Birdsville Races as usual in May despite COVID.

There's another Melbourne Cup of sorts, 400km to the north in Boulia. That would be "the Melbourne Cup of camel racing" with camels from across the land racing 1600 metres for the big prize.

Organisers have set the dates for Boulia Camel Races to return on the weekend of July 16-18, 2021.

Over in Winton they are gearing up for the Way Out West festival in April, while Karumba's magnificent Barramundi Discovery Centre, just this week nominated for the Grey Nomad awards, will likely host the Outback by the Sea festival in September.

Plenty of choice there.

But that's Outback Queensland for you: perfectly hot one day, beautifully busy the next.

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