Hartwood: Campfires and Country Music

It has been said—– “You’ll Never Ever Know If You Never Ever Go”

First timers to this popular festival are surprised at just how many people do “Know-and-Go”.

For decades, friends and families from all over Australia have loaded their caravans, motorhomes or trailers and made their way to Hartwood for the Easter break. Most people have a favourite camping spot on this large isolated property, set in the NSW Warrumbungle Ranges, 40 minutes or so from the town of Coolah. Many regulars arrive early and stock up firewood from the plentiful supply available in the grounds. Names, such as Happy Corner, Dusty Paddock and Naughty Nook identify different sections of the property. Some groups have erected “permanent “shelter sheds, serving as meeting places for happy hours and breakfasts.

The Hartwood Campfires and Country Music Festival was first held over the Easter week-end in 1988, when country singer Paul McLeod invited some of his fellow artists and friends to his parent’s 1680 acre Hartwood property. Today, that original 75 visitors has grown to be many hundreds (if not thousands) who regularly attend. After 27 years, in 2014, Paul and his wife, Hele, sold the property to Chrys and Maria Kelly, who have further developed and improved the site to accommodate the ever increasing number of visitors.

Over the years, a dedicated band of volunteers has emerged. Volunteers give up their time for weeks prior to and during Easter – slashing the paddocks, manning the entrance gate, attending to toilet maintenance, garbage collection, and assisting new arrivals to their site.

Two stages have evolved. The campfire stage is where Tom Maxwell and up to 20 walk-ups provide entertainment from 6:30pm every evening from Tuesday through to Sunday. The walk-ups provide some great entertainment with a surprising level of talent.

The all-new main stage is the venue for nine different professional singers and musicians, who entertain on Easter Friday afternoon and all day Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. This year, 2017, saw the new stage built by volunteers, who had spent many days and weeks constructing it using timber from the property. All the artists this year have given it the “thumbs up”. Apparently, the acoustics on stage are first class! Campers, too, love this new stage area, as it is set in a wide, gently sloping area with plenty of shade trees.

Reticulated water, flushing toilets, portaloos, dump sites and garbage bins are spread throughout the grounds. Campers provide their own shower arrangements. Batteries are the only power here, so solar panels and generators in their many guises can be spotted everywhere. Generators have strictly regulated operating times. Some campers choose to bring three camping chairs each – one for the campfire stage, one for the main stage and one to keep at their campsite. This avoids the task of carrying chairs to each venue for each session. Chairs can be placed at each stage a few days before the entertainment begins.

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