Before I headed off to The Big Red Bash, I was told that the event had a huge economic impact on regional towns, as 9,000 people made the pilgrimage to Birdsville. If I’m honest, even being told about it, I had no idea about the significance of this until I made the trip myself.
I got my first glimpse of the impact on our first night, when we stayed in the Caravan Park in Trangie. We took an unpowered site, when we realized we wouldn’t make it to Nyngan as we had planned. Despite being a small town just over an hour short of Nyngan, the Caravan Park was lively and quite full, largely due to people heading to the Bash. The owner had done an amazing job of turning a run-down park 5 years ago into a tidy one with lots of great amenities, and he specifically talked about the spike in visitors he saw during the weeks up to and after the Big Red Bash.
OK, I thought, the boss wasn’t kidding. That’s nice. But the impact hit me even harder the second night, when we didn’t make it to Eulo as planned. Instead we stopped and stayed at the Oasis Hotel, a small Pub, in Enngonia, about an hour past Bourke.
The sun was close to going down as we drove into the small town and stopping at a pub that offered to let you camp out the back seemed like a great idea after a long day of travelling. It was also an opportunity for a nice cold beer with the Mrs., which we don’t often get to enjoy with two young and energetic kids.
We walked in the front door and were warmly greeted by the owner, and then shown out the back to the camping spot. Shortly after we walked into the Hotel which was part Pub, part Roadhouse / store. The décor was old school, with old paper clippings from the local newspaper covering tables. It was dated, but at the same time, very homely.
An elderly couple were sitting down and having a cup of tea with a young boy, who my little bloke quickly made friends with. I went to say hello and had a great conversation with them. It turns out they had lived in and around Enngonia their whole lives, at one point running a Cattle station before retiring ‘into town’. They were the parents of the lady who owned the pub, and it was fascinating to hear about their story, as well as the resilience of the people there in surviving long droughts and making the most of the difficult conditions there.
Before long, the camp space behind the pub filled up with various travelers, about 90% of whom were headed to the Big Red Bash. I had some lovely conversations with people about their setups, how they found them, what they’d changed, and where they’d been…
As more people arrived, you could see the owners face lighten as they saw more people stop by. Quick as a flash, they were pouring cold drinks, arranging snacks, selling groceries, and preparing meals for the 20 odd people they had filling out their backyard.
Prices charged offered exceptional value, with big portions and very appetizing home style meals coming out of the kitchen. It was amazing to see just two people cater to the needs of so many guests. Despite being run off their feet, I ordered a Coke from the counter and then a minute later had one of the owners stopped past my table with a glass full of ice, just in case I’d like it that way.
We were also offered the ability to have showers. All in all, it was a very special experience getting to have the conversations, but it also really struck me that the boss wasn’t kidding when he talked about the impact the Big Red Bash had on regional towns.
I saw this effect as we continued to travel. As we drove through Cunnamulla, Eulo, and Quiplie, you could see vans and vehicles everywhere. It was a similar story as we travelled on. Towns were literally overtaken by 4WD’s and whatever they might tow.
In Windorah, two ladies explained that they travel there each year for three weeks to help the owner pour fuel to manage the constant flow of vehicles looking to fill up. Wandering over to the local Café, they were out of Pies, and said that the lady who makes them simply couldn’t keep up with demand.
Quite simply, the Bash drives a huge spike in traffic through regional towns as people head to and make their way back from the bash. In every single interaction so far, people have been friendly, cheerful and I’ve found it very stimulating.
While the organisers of the Big Red Bash make money off the event (and they need to so they can keep it running), the impact on regional Australia is significant.
I’m really enjoying the interactions and the entertainment here at the event, but the impact I’ve talked about is the magical thing about this festival for me. And it has turned out to be as much about the journey here as the event itself.
I’m really looking forward to the journey home as a result!
So, if you ever get the chance, I’d highly recommend experiencing this event just once. And if it is not something that works as a fully paying customer, they take about 500 volunteers a year to help at the event. A call out happens towards the end of the year, and every volunteer I spoke to had nothing but amazing things to say about the experience.
If I get the chance, I’ll be back, but if not, I’m sure others in our growing business would appreciate the opportunity to be humbled, entertained, and stimulated by the whole experience.
So next time you are considering a trip, instead of going to the usual spot, pick a random event in an obscure spot, spend several days enjoying an adventure, and enjoy the magic that the experience offers you as your adventure helps others.
And if you’ve got kids (or Grandkids), bring them along for the ride – it’s an amazing journey and experience where they’ll learn a whole lot more than they ever would in school, and they will have the time of their little lives…