After many months of enormous effort by the organising committee and other volunteers, festival co-director Josh Moylan is thrilled with the outcome of the inaugural Peter Allen Festival over the week, drawing in more than a thousand tourists and showing locals a good time.
“It exceeded our expectations,” he said.
“People who appreciate the effort that’s gone into this are over the moon, although there’ll always be naysayers who will pick apart every aspect.”
He concedes it was an ambitious undertaking, coordinating events over a number of days and shutting down the main street – a national highway – for an entire day.
“It was incredibly ambitious and a hard job, but that it all worked so well in the first year is just remarkable.”
Over the next few weeks there will be debriefs with the committee, Tenterfield Shire Council, Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business and Regional Development Australia to put an accurate value on the benefits that the festival brought to the shire.
Anecdotally, however, Josh said many outlets are reporting their best day’s trading ever. Some doubled their usual turnover.
Of the 1100 accommodation beds in town, more than 1000 were booked and many visitors have already made reservations for next year. One coach driver who brought down 15 passengers has 40 on board for next year.
“Walking down the street you’d run into someone from Sydney and then Brisbane and then Gosford and then Melbourne, and even Canada,” Josh said.
“A Canadian couple flew into Sydney and heard about the festival and booked their tickets to Brisbane to be here.
“So many people had never been to Tenterfield before, and loved it. We sent a lot of people home very happy.”
He admitted to having a sleepless night on Friday listening to the rain on the roof ahead of Saturday’s street market.
“But we decided to keep going, and we’re very glad we did.”
All of the 50 allocated stall sites were taken up, and Josh felt this was an ideal number for the space occupied. In fact he said the committee achieved all the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) it set itself.
Some of the stallholders were experienced festival participants who were impressed the show ran so smoothly in its first year, saying it often takes five or six years to achieve such a seamless operation. Some are already lining up for next year.
The wet weather actually added to the occasion, with many visitors from the coast only too aware of the drought conditions inland and happy to see some respite for their country cousins.
“It might have put off a few people early in the day, but it was so good to see the rain and by lunchtime it was sunny. The markets were an unbelievable success, bringing so many more people to the main street than we expected.”
The Tenterfield to Rio cabaret shows put on by Danny Elliot at the Tenterfield Theatre drew rave reviews, with the performer himself quite emotional at the opportunity to sing such standards as Tenterfield Saddler in the place where it all began.
Not surprisingly there were lessons to be learned both little and big. Josh said the bump in/bump out to set up Peter Allen Boulevard in the main street in a short period of time was a challenge. The Jam Session on Saturday night aimed at the post-Peter Allen generation possibly needed a better focus, although its aim was altruistic.
The next Peter Allen could be attending a local school now, Josh said, poised to also take the world by storm and just needing an avenue to get that start. The Jam Session may well evolve into that avenue, but nevertheless several hundred people partied on through to the very end on Saturday night.
“What is clear is that there’s real potential for something really big to come from this festival, and for it to keep coming year after year. We just need the community to step up and get involved.”
After the debrief if it’s determined the festival should go ahead, Josh said preparations for next year will begin straight away. Anyone wishing to pass on feedback is invited to complete the short questionnaire available at the Visitor Information Centre or the School of Arts, and other stakeholders are also being formally canvassed for their opinion.
While constructive criticism is welcomed, Josh stressed that everyone has ideas for different events and attractions but what the committee needs is people on the ground prepared to work for it.
“We need people to get in and get involved, not just criticise from the sideline,” he said.
He conceded that the festival is never going to please everyone, but hopefully will have most people onside and seeing the benefits for many years to come.