Way out West fest having a rest

Winton country music festival not taking place in 2020

Life & Style
Winton's showgrounds were packed out for the inaugural Way out West Festival in 2018.

Winton's showgrounds were packed out for the inaugural Way out West Festival in 2018.

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Having enough time to find the right artists and promote the event fully is behind the Winton Shire Council's decision not to run the Way Out West music festival next year.

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Having enough time to find the right artists and promote the event fully is behind the Winton Shire Council's decision not to run the Way Out West music festival next year.

The inaugural event was held in April 2018 to coincide with the opening of the new Waltzing Matilda Centre and was hailed a huge success for 'Brand Winton', but the council, which owns the event, lost money on this year's festival.

Mayor Gavin Baskett said while nothing was 100 per cent certain, council was working towards putting Way out West on in April 2021 but needed enough time to prepare.

Related: Brand Winton launches on world stage

"We started on the last one about six months out, which wasn't long enough," he said. "We didn't have enough budget information to evaluate before then and by the time we went ahead, many of the singers had been booked up and made other plans.

It's the international country music stars - in 2018 it was Kip Moore and Lee Brice, and this year Canadian band Road Hammers joined Americans Jon Pardi and Brett Eldredge on the main stage - that are the Winton festival's point of difference.

"That comes at a cost, and the festival has to be affordable - it's ratepayers' money we're working with," Cr Baskett said, explaining the evaluation process.

"On the other hand, it's been shown that the community received a stimulus of more than $6m in direct and incremental spending from the festival, and it's great for businesses in the town.

"We had lots of good feedback - businesses tell us they do as much trade in the five days of the festival as they'd normally do in a month."

Australia's Jessica Mauboy was one of the hits at the inaugural Way out West Festival.

Australia's Jessica Mauboy was one of the hits at the inaugural Way out West Festival.

Cr Baskett said the value of social media exposure that Winton received via the festival was hard to calculate, which also had to be taken into account.

"We said at the start we'd give it three tries and that's what we're planning to do - you've got to give it enough time to develop."

Asked whether the council was considering staging Way out West every two years, maybe alternating with Winton's very successful Outback Festival, Cr Baskett said he had been told that for some reason music festivals needed to happen annually to attract numbers.

"I'm not sure why that is but if you look at CMC or Gympie or Tamworth, that's what they do."

The timing, in April at the shoulder to the start of the western Queensland tourist season, was also important to retain, he said.

Cr Baskett said next year's local government elections, due in March, wouldn't affect any of the planning, saying the current council may end up doing the groundwork with the final decision to be made by the new council post-election.

"We probably wouldn't be in a place to make a decision next February before we go into caretaker mode, but I think it's a mistake to say, an election's coming up, and do nothing."

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