The country muster is coming 

The country muster is coming 

You know you’re in devil country when the Akubras come out. 

“It’s exciting,” Devil Country Muster organiser Julie Bernhagen said. 

“Once those flags go up in the main street and the caravans start driving in!” 

Look out the car window and you may spot a suspiciously tall Tasmanian devil roaming the streets too. 

The atmosphere in Smithton changes when the Devil Country Muster comes to town. 

An event of the Rotary Club of Smithton, the country music festival is a feat to put on. 

“It’s almost a full time job,” organiser Eric Marshall said, who dedicates 15 to 20 hours to the project every week year round. And a few 80-odd hour weeks ahead of the event. 

“Then we have 10 or 12 Rotarians working 12 hour days the week of.” 

As the caravans drive off and the festival is packed away, Eric is the first to pick up the phone to start organising for the next event. 

Around 400 people attended the first one-day concert on Saturday March 30, 2013 at the Smithton Recreation Ground. The event was headlined by Luke O’Shea and Camille and Stuie French. 

Organisers recall the weather wasn’t kind but it didn’t need to be, the event was a success. 

The Devil Country Muster arrived at a time of economic uncertainty in Circular Head. 

Redundancies from McCain Foods and Gunns Timber left families reeling and retail businesses feeling the pressure of the community spending less. 

“We were down in the doldrums, businesses were closing . . . Smithton was dying,” Eric said. 

“Our backbone businesses were in trouble. We needed something to cheer people up, and I think it’s worked.” 

Not only did the Devil Country Muster draw tourism to Smithton that first year, it has continued to call caravans from around the country our way since. 

“It’s still lifting spirits around Smithton and bringing good entertainment with it!” 

Over the years, the country music festival has hosted big names in Beccy Cole, Melinda Schneider, Amber Lawrence, Anne Kirkpatrick, Tania Kernighan, Dean Perrett, Travis Collins, Rue Arcus, Bill Chambers and Amber Joy Poulton. The festival has expanded to produce five days of locally grown and visiting talent. 

This year, Troy Cassar-Daley headlines. 

“With Troy, we’re really taking it to another level,” Eric said. 

The event’s reputation has grown to have artists approach the Devil Country Muster to perform now. 

“The Muster is a friendly event everyone gets to meet the artists, talk with them, buy their records and get an autograph. There’s that interaction you wouldn’t get at other festivals.” 

The Devil Country Muster returns to Smithton from February 12 to 16. Along with the main show on Saturday February 15, the event features a Talent Quest, Walk Up Muster, Tag Along Tours, Busking in Emmett Street, Chill Out at Trawmanna, Poets Breakfast, Sunday Country Gospel Show and loads more. 

To find out more or volunteer at the event, chat to Eric Marshall on 0428 142 034 or Julie Bernhagen 0400 045 345. 

Rotary Club of Smithton members (back from left) Leighton Stewart, Julie Bernhagen, Craig Perry, (front) Wendy Gray and Eric Marshall with the Devil Country Muster’s mascot are gearing up for the return of the festival in February.