Festival president Danielle Butler said their best estimates put visitor numbers at somewhere between 3000 and 3500 people.
“Condensing the program to three days attracted a lot from out of town,” she said.
“It was entertaining all the time, plus we’ve hit upon a family-friendly formula that reflects what our community is now.
It started with a 20 per cent increase in entries in the photography competition that kicked the festival off on Friday night in conjunction with the 20-year-old Heartland Art Show.
Over 155 images submitted by talented local and statewide photographers were printed and hung for judging by popular local instagrammer, Oona Banks aka dusty_outback.
Among those collecting a share of the $2000 prizemoney were Clermont’s Paula Heelan for best overall picture, Yaraka’s Anne-Maree Lloyd with her Father and Son portrait in The Right Light section, Blackall’s Alec Walker with his Space Cow manipulated image in the For Art’s Sake category, while Katrina Lehmann was the winner in the Where I Stand section.
“It was a very talented ‘breaking of the drought’,” organiser Sarah Pearson said.
Art show winners included Blackall husband and wife duo, Tony Kiernan for best local entry, Lorelei Kiernan for best 3D entry, Blackall’s Meka Russell for best traditional entry, Barry Smith for best contemporary entry, and Sue Denham for best overall painting.
Patrons went on the Heartland Bull Ride, filled with contestants who had taken part in Clayton “Froggy” O’Brien’s poddy riding school earlier in the day.
Saturday started with a Recovery Breakfast where attendees heard Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women’s Network Story Teller award winners The Crack-Up Sisters’ entertaining story.
People dressed to impress at the Blackall Cultural Centre’s High Tea among the art in the exhibition space, washing down delicious treats with a splash of bubbly, before going on to the Beef Producers Caulfield Cup race meeting.
Race Club secretary Kylie Banks estimated a crowd of around 1000 for a perfect afternoon of racing, followed by the first ever Barcoo Blitz time trial.
It attracted sprinters from around the state, with Georgie Girl, raced by Banana’s Dave McCann and Barcaldine’s Natasha Tomlinson, and ridden by Charlie Prow, winning the money under lights.
Sunday saw a packed program at the historic Blackall Woolscour, starting with Pilates in the Paddock, a Shearers Breakfast and the Colour Me Outback fun run.
The Woolscour paddock was filled with market stalls as the entertainment continued unabated with sheep races, a barbecue cook-off celebrating Arcadian Organic red meat, and the Blades and Blisters Jackie Howe Challenge.
The ArTour Roaring Twenties cabaret rounded off the weekend.
The weekend was complemented by a Back to Blackall reunion and Ram Park tour conducted by Stew Benson, and Danielle Butler said class reunions would most likely continue to be a highlight of the festival.
“There was so much positive feedback,” she said.
“The community has been very much a part of the success. They really got behind it.
“There are lots of reasons to hold the event in peak tourist season but it means lots of clashes.
“The community liked it being anchored to a race meeting, and being out of football season, and we saw that with the amount of volunteers that stepped forward.
“We’ve had no paid positions; everyone is a volunteer but I think we’ve caught up quickly to other western festivals that have been going a long time, and given the world something special.”