Outback Queensland Events in Hughenden: An Insider’s Perspective.

Our small town is bursting with community spirit and a vibrant event scene, that we think, showcases the best of regional Australia. Recently, we got five minutes with Community Services Team Leader for the Flinders Shire Council, Erin Kinchela, to get her insights into what makes Hughenden such a special place to live, work, play and of course why it’s perfect for our outstanding outback events.

A local through and through 

Erin has lived in Hughenden for nearly 30 years now, having moved with her family in the mid-nineties. The community and people are among her reasons for staying.

“I was brought to Hughenden in 1997 when my family moved to the area.  My Dad was a train driver posted to Hughenden and I have never left!  The sense of community, being able to feel safe and secure and it’s a great place for raising a family. That’s what I love and what keeps me here.”

Erin’s journey in Hughenden eventually led her to her current role as Services Team Leader. It’s a pivotal role in organising the many events that bring joy and excitement to locals and visitors alike across the Flinders Region for Erin it’s also a great way to connect with the community she loves.

“Through my work, I have been involved with a lot of events and bringing things into the community.  Separately, I have always been eager to lend a hand to other events run by community groups in the area.  I love being able to give back to the community as well as helping them take part in opportunities which people may not think are accessible in outback locations.  I think what sets our local events apart are the sense of belonging and the outback hospitality.”

Opposite: Erin and her famiy

Hughenden’s Outback Events

Above: Hughenden Camp Draft

Hughenden offers an impressive lineup of events throughout the year, each offering a unique experience that showcases the region’s charm. From the bigger events like the Festival Outback Skies to campdrafts and our region’s unique take on the country music festival there’s definitely something for anyone who makes the trek out west.

“We are truly spoiled for choice for events in the Flinders Shire – people are always intrigued as to what we do with our spare time and are shocked when I say you’d be flat out trying to find a free weekend out west! From country race meets to the Hughenden Rugby 7’s, the Country Music Festival to the annual Campdraft and Flinders Classic, there’s something for you.”

“We have 5 country race meets each year – Hughenden hosts 2 whilst Kooroorinya, Stamford and Prairie have their annual meets. These events are wonderful for our smaller communities in Flinders to shine and show off what they have to offer – great outback hospitality. The Hughenden Rugby 7’s has become a flagship event with the small grassroots committee growing this event beyond their wildest beliefs.  A spot on the playing card is highly sought after by teams throughout Queensland and this event sees an additional 500 people brought into town.”

“The Country Music Festival has been a staple on the calendar of events for over 30 years with competitors of high quality keeping audiences in awe. This event has supported artists that have moved onto ventures such as Australia’s Got Talent.  If you are into horse events, well you’ve definitely come to the right place in Hughenden with the annual Campdraft and Flinders Classic.  This provides very important opportunities for connection for those that may face isolation or limited social activities.”

Erin acknowledges that the event calendar gets pretty full and there’s no excuse for boredom. 

“Like I have said you cannot say you are bored when living in the Flinders Shire – there are more events than you can poke a stick at.” 

The Festival of Outback Skies

Alongside all these amazing events is the Festival of Outback Skies: The festival adds a creative twist to the event calendar, merging rodeo, elite dining experiences, arts workshops, and the beloved Lantern Parade into a community-led extravaganza that delights our locals as well as our visitors.

“The Festival of Outback Skies is a new attribute to the calendar of events and provides a unique twist on an arts and cultural event in the Outback. The festival merges a rodeo, an elite dining experience, arts workshops and my favourite the Lantern Parade.”

Events Play A Crucial Role in the Outback

The Hughenden Country Music Fetsival

Above: The Hughenden Country Music Fetsival

Erin highlights the impact of Hughenden events, noting their dual role in enhancing tourist appeal and fostering economic growth within the community. This positive cycle is apparent across the whole community: Thriving shops, fully-booked hotels, and heightened activity in local establishments, leaving both visitors and residents with a sense of positivity about each event.

“Events play a massive role in ensuring we are an appealing and vibrant destination in the tourist market.  All of our events play such an important role in supporting our communities contributing vital economic support.  We are all winners from our events – our shops see additional foot traffic, accommodation houses are booked out months in advance, local hotels and hospitality businesses are standing room only and servos see patrons fuelling up before moving on to the next destination.”

Regional Living Has Its Challenges and Rewards 

Unfortunately, it’s not all smooth sailing and organising events in regional areas like Hughenden can come with challenges. To face these challenges, Erin relies on the community and the many small businesses in the area that lend their support.

“The vast majority of our events are run by volunteer community organisations so the largest challenge faced are volunteers and committee members.” Erin revealed. “With the ever changing environment, we see it becoming increasingly difficult to get people into positions with there simply being less people available and those who are often working full time or are spread over a number of clubs and organisations. Additionally being located regionally, we do face extra costs in hosting events such as freight, however our local businesses are a great support to community events.”

Opposite: Volunteers are the backbone of our regional events

Despite these challenges, Erin finds immense reward in seeing the community come together and thrive.

“Being able to see the community come together socially and have opportunities that are available in larger communities,” Erin shared enthusiastically.

Collaboration is key to the success of these events, with local businesses, organisations, and community members joining forces to create unforgettable experiences.

“Without the support from locals, events just would not happen here,” Erin emphasised. As the saying goes ‘teamwork makes the dream work.’ Local businesses are putting their hands up whether it be providing financial assistance, sourcing resources or being a friendly welcoming face for patrons. As we are a small community, we do rely on each other to lead a helping hand.”

Erin also expresses her gratitude for the local community support. 

“Without the buy-in and excitement from our locals, events could fail. By coming along, grabbing a bite to eat, supporting the bar and generally providing support is worth so much!” 

Personal Highlights

There have been a few favourites and standouts for Erin during her tenure in the role.

“…I’ve been really touched to be able to bring special, out of the box events such as the Commonwealth Games Baton Relay, QLD Ballet and Opera (such fancy genres in the Outback 😉), Glen Shorrock and other large events to Hughenden and surrounding communities in Flinders.”

“Seeing our local community members sharing a stage with Troy Cassar Daley was such a highlight for me. Providing opportunities that foster and enhance the existing amazing people and skills they have in the community. I also really enjoy our day to day events such as the annual Australia Day awards, Citizenship Ceremonies and touring arts performances – celebrating our community members and giving access to see art is such a massive thing. With the inclusion of the Festival of Outback Skies, it has been really great to be able to take part and see how a large-scale event is managed with some many moving parts.”

Living in Hughenden 

For Erin Hughenden offers “the best of all worlds,” living in the area offers a unique blend of lifestyle, location, and natural beauty.

“Hughenden really is the best of all worlds,” Erin remarked. “You can see the stars, be guaranteed the most beautiful skies, have a yarn and be welcomed wherever you go, and enjoy the beautiful outdoor spaces. The characters and stories – ranging from millions of years old are definitely the best bits!”

In the end, it’s the sense of security, the quality experiences, and the opportunity to make a difference that make living and working in Hughenden truly special for Erin and many others.

“I love that Hughenden is able to offer me and my family a sense of security and safety whilst still being able to access and enjoy quality experiences and opportunities.  Working within the Community Services team you receive a lot of satisfaction by being able to help and connect people.”

As Hughenden continues to thrive as an emerging hub of outback culture, community, and creativity, it remains a shining example of the magic that can be found when exploring outback Queensland.

If you haven’t planned your trip yet, now’s the time to get started.

See you in Hughey.

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