The Winton outback festival.


Many of the town and district events I visit in the far outback are pretty much in house affairs whereas at Winton, a small western Queensland town is quite the opposite, it specializes in entertaining thousands of travelers most of whom come from the coast or nearby inside country. Winton is best known for three major events in history, firstly being the birth place of Quantas, secondly the place where our unofficial national anthem Waltzing Matilda was first recited and written of course by none other than "The Banjo" (A.B Patterson) whilst visiting Dagworth Station, and thirdly the Dinosaur stampede. This was discovered by a local station manager who first noticed strange marks in the soil which were later excavated and proved to be preserved tracks of Dinosaurs hunting some 95 million years ago.This is a huge draw card for visitors throughout the year who now play a big part in the towns survival. Once of course, the shearers would have been the main stay being traditionally a wool growing area where in such a town you would expect to find at least six to eight shearing contractors who in turn would each employ twenty or more men many of whome had families. The demise of the wool industry put many small country towns on the brink of disaster, barely surviving in fact and losing most facilities we take for granted. The number of old hotel buildings in a main street is a fair indication a town was once suported by a thriving wool industry. Winton still has four fabulous old pubs operating and Barcaldine, a similar sized town 280 k's east has six pubs and almost side by side.

Well mannered young ladies shopping at Packsaddle.Smoky skies.A web of channels forming the Western River skirts the southern end of town which eventually flows into the Diamantina River. From whichever direction you travel to Winton first you must spend several hours driving across vast open plains of mitchell and flinders grass dotted with small breaks of gidgee, boree and beefwood trees. I'm sure the visitors experience the real sense of being outback by the time they reach their destination. The locals on the other hand think the outback starts well west of Winton, in fact over 360 k's away somewhere out near Boulia.

Rental property. The Winton Outback Festival is well known and publicised and has been successfully run for many years now. There are so many challenging events to compete in during the week but without doubt the iron man event is recognised as the main feature. This is run in three sections, mens, ladies and kids and as well entries may be as individuals or as a team. The feature of this race is the swim leg held out at Long Waterhole which is two k's from town out the Jundah road.  Competitors were faced with a swim/wade through a murky muddy watercourse, then up over an island and back through the slush to where the race started. I would have loved to taken pics of this event but having our leather goods on display meant I had to remain in town serving customers. The bike leg got under way in town and that was the last I saw of them however the run leg was held in the main drag and with temperatures reaching 38 degrees each day many red faces could be seen as they crossed the finish line.

The store shedClean up after the turd throwing comp.

There were so many events for the visitors to take part in and each of the four days saw the streets packed with competitors and spectators. Some of these were cow turd throwing, egg throwing and catching, broom tossing then whip cracking, bands, dunny races, tug of war, truck pulling, strong man events,street parades and so on, there seemed no end to it. All sorts of stalls and food vans lined the street and the pubs did a roaring trade well into the night.This is the ultimate family outback experience and for a small western town to pull together running the event so successfully ensured everybody felt that special bush hospitality.Percussion band. Having to operate my business as all these activities took place didn't give me the opportunity to cover the event as I would have liked and the time available to take pics was limited to pre dawn and dusk. The shots I missed such as the brolgas or native companions strutting down the street out side the Matilda Center as the huge red sun rose distorted by the smoky skies is one for the memory so unavailable to share. With so much smoke on the horizon and evening storm clouds gathering the most amazing skies resulted which were almost spooky.My shop in the main street was set up opposite some particularly clever work in the form of sculpture relating to the pride of the town being the famous verse of Waltzing Matilda.He camped and he watched and he waited till his billy boiledUp jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee Down came a trooper mounted on his thoroughbredViews west at dusk.The buildings in town show their age with still most in use, the residents take pride in dressing their front yards with all sorts of interesting objects from the past or creations built from bits and pieces found locally. As you pass various locations you will notice dummies dressed as old timers placed on rooftops, in shop windows, up trees or tied to a fence, this helps create a special image unique to the Winton township.
Finally the week at Winton was over, no more warm sunny days as I headed towards South Australia to experience the unpleasant  rainy days where the bitterly cold winds prevail as they sweep in from the southern ocean and make life miserable. Oh how I wish the shows continued in the north until the end of the year.
Bra bunting
Passing through Wyandra between Charleville and Cunnamulla I noticed some strange bunting along a fence line. Closer inspection revealed the nature of the items and the story is that the locals have been raising money for breast cancer and to draw attention to their efforts they lined the fences with thousands of bras. What a good idea.
Another day over.
I hope this finds you lazing about in the sunshine enjoying life.
Until next time.
Steve and Sass


  • Jeanette

    Thanks for the share! Very useful info, looking to communicate!

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  • karen and peter

    see you soon

  • Lynne Wood

    Hi Steve. You are doing a great job with the pics and stories. i love the one of the red sun. Fantastic. Hope you and Sas keep it up and keep us informed. Thanks.

  • Heather

    Steve, if you ever visit Winton again, take the road out of town to Conn’s Waterhole. Here it was that my husband’s grandfather sat and wrote to his love back in London. Not sure where the letter was posted, as the envelope has been lost.
    Conrad von Hagen, known to his employer’s wife (Gordon, Scott, etc) as Harry Guinness, due to her dislike of anyone with a German name) sat and wrote Lucy a long letter about the beauty of the Australian bush, and how he was missing her.
    Lucy Sarah Hayes Edwards was not easily persuaded, and so his boss persuaded him to drove Vindex cattle to the Victorian markets, and he later took ship in 1881 back to London, wed her in August, and then brought her to Toganmain Station. There is a von Hagen paddock there to this day. Their early married years were also shared with the Rev Gribble and his wife at Darlington Pt and the mission. But, when I think of life way up on Vindex Stn, and Conn’s Waterhole (sign posted), I think of loneliness, and distance.
    Thanks for sharing your journey.
    Heather (Brisbane)

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