The tiny town of Girgarre in Victoria is situated in an area known for its dairying. Many years ago its Girgarre Butter was a household name in Victoria. But times change and ten years ago Victorian primary industry was crippled by the worst drought in living memory.
The residents of Girgarre gathered together to brainstorm a solution to save their town from ruin. Someone suggested a Farmer’s Market and music was also suggested. The market went ahead and some musicians came to perform on hay bales in the park.
Turning the clock forward, last weekend 1500 people converged on Girgarre. Tents were pitched, caravans and buses parked and instruments tuned, loudly. Double Bass players wandered up and down the main street dragging their enormous instruments behind them. Banjos, harmonicas and mandolins and little ukes and fiddles were played until all hours of the night turning Girgarre into the happiest place to be in all of Australia. The really keen ones arrived on Thursday and the last of them packed up on Monday morning and in the intervening time they played and sang their hearts out, constantly.
I’ve never seen so many strange instruments and I’m sure some were home made. One guy had a chest of drawers with strings attached. There was a didgeridoo that resembled a wooden toilet seat but sounded perfectly haunting and a percussion instrument that looked more like a boa constrictor or perhaps it was the plumbing that belonged to the ‘toilet seat’.
Visitors were bedecked in T shirts declaring music festivals from all around the world and thongs were the footwear of choice, after all it was hot. Small groups jammed in the camping area while the more organized performed on the two stages, in the Town Hall and on the back of a truck in the park.
Behind the scenes the townsfolk worked tirelessly, shifting furniture, organizing acts and workshops with precision, feeding the hordes with delicious meals then rearranging the whole place for the Farmer’s market on the Sunday. The local fire fighters cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast to give us the strength for the Gospel singing in the Supper Room and boy did we do a good job, but I’m so glad they handed out the words!
Friday night was a perfectly balmy summer’s evening with the smell of hay and pizza in the air. As we sat in the park watching the entertainment nature put on a breathtaking sunset as a backdrop to the performers, some of whom had appeared here all those years ago.
This is a town with much more than spirit, they have tenacity. Thank you Girgarre we had a ball.