AT Reader Peter Bennett just can’t stay away from Corryong in northeast Victoria, the home of the famous Man From Snowy River Bush Festival.

Around 437km northeast of Melbourne, The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival has grown to become one of the best – if not the best – weekend experiences on offer in Victoria. I’ve made the now ritual journey to Corryong for a number of years, and it’s the combination of the Challenge Cup for horsemanship, the re-enactment of the famous poem by Banjo Patterson, the music, poetry and art competitions, the street parade and Ute muster that
brings us back every year in late March, early April.

Due to the outbreak of equine influenza and the subsequent quarantine restrictions, the festival wasn’t held in 2008, but in more ways than one the 2009 Festival made up for last year’s disappointment. Nestled in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains and close to the Snowy River and Kosciusko National Park, Corryong’s population explodes from a quiet town of around 1200 to well in excess of ten times that number. Obviously for those wanting accommodation other than caravan or camping facilities, hotel, motel and B&B availability is at a premium.

Prior to the start of the re-enactment, “Riley’s Riders” return from their four-day ride, a retracing of the route when an ill Jack Riley was brought back to Corryong from Tom Groggin Station many years ago.

This is the first year we’ve graduated from camping to a B&B, a step up we found most enjoyable. The Miner’s Cottage, which can take up to six guests, was very well appointed and cosy. The two caravan parks in the area are generally booked out months in advance, with many people booking the same or similar sites year on year. For those wanting to be next to the action, camping is permitted around the showgrounds and next-door at the golf club. For those not wanting to cook, we found plenty of options for meals ranging from takeaways and bistro meals to licensed restaurants. We were more than happy to eat at the pubs while there and found, for example, that Thursday’s Steak Night was the best value we’d seen around for a long time.

The re-enactment of Banjo’s The Man From Snowy River is held each year on private property at Thowgla Road on the Friday morning of the festival. Prior to the start of the re-enactment, “Riley’s Riders” return from their four-day ride, a retracing of the route when an ill Jack Riley was brought back to Corryong from Tom Groggin Station many years ago. For those wanting to make this ride, there’s a long waiting list, so be prepared to wait a few years!

A special guest for the 2009 re-enactment was Australia’s own Jack Thompson, who read the famous poem in his distinctive style. Following the re-enactment, the street parade was held on Friday afternoon, again led by Riley’s Riders. While programs of music and poetry and arts and craft displays continued, the Challenge Cup (to find the best stockman) got underway at the showgrounds. Competitors had to prove their all-round skills in bareback riding, stock handling, shoeing, whip-cracking, cross-country events and other drills.

Following the completion of these sections, the ten riders with the highest points proceeded to the final two events on the Sunday afternoon, the Brumby Catch and the Buckjumping ride, to determine the overall winner. This year’s winner was Morgan Webb, a 19-year-old horse trainer from Tumut, NSW, the youngest rider ever to take out the event.

Now, as far as the events in the main ring are concerned, and the same thing goes for the re-enactment, if you want to get a good view of things, take your own chair, a hat, and most importantly, get there early. And why does a city slicker like me return year after year to a small town in the High Country? Well, I guess it’s because of my love of horses, my appreciation of true horsemanship, the companionship and the knowledge that occasions like these make for some great photography. So, you might ask, are we going back next year?

You betcha.


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