Festival of Outback Skies: A Reflection and Anticipation.

On the 28th of April last year, the town of Hughenden came alive under a bright, endless, outback sky. The small town, its population of just over a thousand residents swelled to twice its size, and travellers came from all directions to celebrate the community’s inaugural Festival of Outback Skies in one of Queensland’s most welcoming towns. Travellers and residents alike found themselves surrounded by a montage of activities, events artists and workshops. From the familiar outback favourites of bull riding and barbeques to the hilarity of the raft race. The festival also featured a few key events that emphasised the unique beauty of the Queensland outback and the host town of Hughenden, such as Dinner Under the Stars and the mesmerising farewell tribute of the Lantern Parade.

Dinner under the stars at the Festival of the Outback Skies

Hughenden Celebrates

As the sun set on the 2023 festival, as the crowds departed and went their way home the team behind the festival gave themselves a well-deserved pat on the back, the barest of rests and then began the preparations for 2024. 

The Community Service Team was the driving force behind the event and their determination and vision brought the festival out of conception into reality. We recently caught up with Jennifer Tasker, festival coordinator, to get her thoughts on the 2023 festival and the scoop on what to expect at the 2024 Festival of Outback Skies.

2023 was a big year for Hughenden, a year that brought not only economic prosperity but also a surge in civic pride and community engagement.

“In 2023, the festival was more than a spectacle; it was a catalyst for positive change in our town,” Jennifer remarks. “The economic boost was palpable, but what truly warmed our hearts was seeing locals impressed with the event, taking pride in their community.”

Opposite: Starting celebrations under an outback sky

Perfect for locals and visitors

The success wasn’t confined to residents alone. Visitors, too, left with positive impressions.

“Feedback from our visitors was overwhelmingly positive. They relished the opportunity to immerse themselves in art, culture, and some of the unique experiences we offered, including the always popular bull ride.”

Bull Ride Competitor at Festival of Outback Skies

planning, support & new to 2024

The Festival of Outback Skies, envisioned as a celebration of the region’s unique spirit, surpassed expectations in its debut year. However, this was just the beginning for the Community Service Team.

“It was a busy year full of planning and coordinating. We’re very lucky in Hughenden to have the support of the local council and the locals here are always happy to roll up their sleeves and just get to it.”

One of the crowd’s favourites in 2023 was the Lantern Parade. 

“With its vibrant lights and the community spirit, it was a great way to farewell the festival. It really stands out as a cherished memory for me.” She reflects.

“This year promises to be even bigger and better. The Festival is introducing Opera in the Outback, a BBQ competition that welcomes competitors from across Australia, and a myriad of new workshops, and live performances that build on the success of last year.”

Opposite: The Lantern Parade

Quoting specific attractions, “We have new workshop artists, Indigenous art, silversmithing and dancing as well as a return of some of last year’s favourites. Stained glass, resin, pottery and painting.”

“We’ve expanded the festival by a full day, opening gates on Friday and carrying through the May Day long weekend. Jonti Horner from the University of Southern Queensland will be there to encourage visitors to rise early and witness a meteor shower – our low light levels under the outback sky make for an incredible star gazing experience.”

Interested in Stargazing without light pollution? Read our Meteor Article – HERE

The 2024 festival of outback skies

Reflecting on changes and innovations, event co-ordinator, Jennifer Tasker emphasises, “We’ve incorporated new workshops, brought back the big screen, introduced new artists and performers, and relocated the rodeo to the main arena. Tent city will be set up at the Diggers Entertainment Centre which has a great view over the Flinders River, free BBQ areas, free phone charging and relaxation areas, pub across the road and still only 500m to the festival site. The 2024 Festival of Outback Skies offers a wide spectrum from Rodeo to Opera and everything in between.”

Beyond the festivities, the impact on the town’s spirit and identity is profound. “Thanks to the festival, we’ve welcomed new residents who fell in love with Hughenden during the event.”

Behind the scenes, Jennifer offers a glimpse into the tremendous effort involved in making the Festival of Outback Skies a success. 

“It’s a year-long planning process, a true community effort. The parks and gardens crew, Councillors along with our dedicated volunteers, both local and from afar, play a crucial role. It’s a testament to the collaborative spirit of our community services team and operations staff.”

As the Festival of Outback Skies continues to unfold, Jennifer invites everyone to be part of the magic.

“Our three-day celebration, set against the backdrop of Hughenden’s big skies, promises live music, art, workshops, and events that showcase the essence of the outback. Come and experience wide-open spaces and memorable moments in the heart of ‘Hughey.'”

For those eager to join the festivities, make sure to visit their website or reach out to the Flinders Shire Council at (07) 4741 2970.

Hughenden awaits you with open arms under an endless sky from 03-05 May.

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