Winton buzzing and it's not the flies

Winton Way Out West Fest: Crucial tourism boost for outback town


Events
Winton's Way Out West Fest draw thousands of visitors to the small outback town.

Winton's Way Out West Fest draw thousands of visitors to the small outback town.

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Visitors came from far and wide to support the town

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The showground was packed, the punters were singing and the small town of Winton had something to smile about.

Winton, population 875, was heaving as thousands rolled in for the Way Out West festival, now only two years old but quickly gaining a reputation as one of outback Queensland's can't-miss weekends.

It hasn't been easy going for Winton in recent years.

The town's now-rebuilt Waltzing Matilda Centre was razed by fire in 2015 and inspirational Mayor Butch Lenton died after a battle with cancer two years later.

On top of that you can throw in years of crippling drought and the February floods that devastated large chunks of the shire.

Donna Paynter and Lyn Fraser said there was plenty of foot traffic on Winton's main street.

Donna Paynter and Lyn Fraser said there was plenty of foot traffic on Winton's main street.

With such tough times on the land, it's impossible to understate the importance of tourism and events such as Way Out West Fest.

Lyn Fraser, who was behind the counter at an opal and gem craft store on Winton's main street, said it was wonderful to have so many new faces coming through the door.

"It's been wonderful, customers have definitely been up," she said.

"There's a real buzz out there at the moment and with other events like the film festival and the Outback Festival, we've got a big year coming up."

Down the road it was - like every other pub in town - standing room only at the hulking art deco-style North Gregory Hotel.

"We've had a great turnout," staff member Tanya Insch said on Friday.

"It's been really, really good. There's a great atmosphere out there and we've sold out of pizzas."

Riley Zischke from Longreach duo Riley & Tane was one of the local acts given a chance to impress at the festival

Riley Zischke from Longreach duo Riley & Tane was one of the local acts given a chance to impress at the festival

Things kicked into gear on Thursday after the Anzac Day service, with 86-year-old country music stalwart Chad Morgan dazzling a packed crowd at the Winton Town Hall.

John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew gave a special rendition of Waltzing Matilda on Friday, fittingly dedicating the bush ballad to the people of Winton.

The Friday night line-up included the Road Hammers, Jon Pardi and Brett Eldredge, followed by San Cisco, Amy Shark and perennial crowd favourite Missy Higgins on Saturday.

Away from the main stage at the Winton Showgrounds, the festival also did its bit for local and emerging acts at a series of smaller satellite gigs around town.

Seventeen-year-old Riley Zischke, one half of Longreach duo Riley & Tane, was listed on the official Way Out West Fest lineup and had a slot playing at the Winton Club on Sunday afternoon.

"We're really happy to be invited up here and to be involved in it," he said.

"We've been really looking forward to it."

Winton Shire Mayor Gavin Baskett said he was blown away by the support visitors had shown the town.

"It was a great weekend for Winton after the devastating floods the region encountered recently," he said.

"The crowds over the four days were awesome and the artists, in both the pubs and on the main stage, were fantastic."

It was an ideal way to kick off the tourist season, Mr Baskett said.

"I was talking to people over the last four days that travelled from Victoria and Darwin just to attend the Winton Way Out West Fest.

"The event is a massive boost to the local economy and is a great kickstart to the tourist season."

The story Winton buzzing and it's not the flies first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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