When Australian country music fans talk of the festival "biggies", the Mildura Country Music Festival rates a mention alongside the Tamworth Country Music Festival and the Gympie Muster as one of the big three.
The big difference between them is that the Mildura festival showcases many independent entertainers - highly talented professional country music artists who aren't signed to major record label deals - yet.
In 2017, more than 70 individual artists and groups will entertain you over the 10-day period to celebrate the festival's 31st year. This goes to show the wealth of talent that is out there.
Many artists who have performed at Mildura in the past, have gone on to highly successful recording and touring careers and have a big fan base across Australia.
Each year, the Mildura festival draws thousands of fans on an annual pilgrimage. Often driving thousands of kilometres, the fans converge on this beautiful destination on the banks of the legendary Murray River for ten days of virtually non-stop country music.
It's become a bit of a Mecca for the "empty-nesters", Mature age couples whose kids have flown the coop, and have the time to set out for two or three weeks holiday, and most importantly, those who have a deep love of country music.
With virtually all the musical entertainment being free, and the majority of the shows featuring multiple artists, it's a great 10-day event.
The 25 venues are spread from the City Mall, providing all-day entertainment, to outlying locations like Wentworth, Merbein, Red Cliffs, Coomealla, Buronga and Gol Gol. Every taste is catered for with line dancing, country rock, bluegrass and bush ballads. There is even the opportunity for daily "Walk-Ups" for those not on the program.
One of the highlights over the past twenty years has been the live concert and radio presentation of the Southern Stars. These Australian Independent Country Music Awards, recognise the achievements of the Independent recording artists during the past year, and this year's entries are sure to again endorse the status of the event.
Previous finalist and winners include Felicity Urquhart, Darren Coggan, Travis Sinclair, Drew McAlister and Carter & Carter have also won Golden Guitars, with some notable successes like Allan Caswell, Brendon Walmsley, James Blundell, Luke O'Shea and Dianna Corcoran being multiple Golden Guitars winners.
The Mildura Country Music Festival has built up a real family following, as a relaxing and enjoyable event. If you miss one of your favourite artists early on in the week, chances are they'll be playing again later on.
Supporting the festival is radio 91.5 FM which broadcasts a 24 hours per day country music format during the 10 days, focussing on the music of artists appearing.
The wonderful part about Mildura is that not only is it a country music heaven, it's also a great holiday destination. From its abundant fresh local produce and award-winning wines, drifting aboard a luxury houseboat along the mighty Murray, to exploring many nearby natural wonders, Mildura is a holiday region that caters for all ages and interests.
Rolling down the river
Recognised as an important Australian food bowl, Mildura's prolific agricultural districts are bursting with grapes, citrus fruits, almonds, olives, countless varieties of vegetables plus much more.