Alongside the Tamworth Country Music Festival and the Gympie Muster, the Mildura Country Music Festival is considered one of the largest in Australia. What makes the Mildura festival so different is that it features only independent country artists – those who have not signed up with record labels – and that it lasts for 10 days practically free of charge for all visitors.

How Mildura got its name is still uncertain, although it could mean either “red earth” or “water rock” from Indigenous Australian words. The first Europeans came to Mildura in 1857, raising sheep on the area's rich pasture lands. The town went through some hard times from an economic recession to a rabbit invasion before it started to grow and prosper. In 1934, Mildura became a city. Although its population has been growing rapidly, Mildura with over 30,000 residents is still a sparsely populated city. The tallest building is a three-story structure that dates back to the 1920's.

Recognized as the center of Victoria's Food Bowl, Mildura is a major producer of citrus and supplies 80% of Victoria's grapes. There are major wineries in Mildura and the area also ships grapes to wineries around the country. Tourism is a major source of revenues for Mildura and its location along the Murray River makes it popular for water sports, paddle steamers and boat cruises. Its dry, still climate also makes it a favorite for hot air balloon activities highlighted by the Mildura International Balloon Fiesta.

Then there's the country music festival where over 100 artists and groups perform and vie for the Southern Stars, the Australian Independent Country Music Awards. This year, the 25th Mildura Country Music Awards will be held from September 30 – October 9, 2011. Since 95% of country music performers in Australia are independent artists, a long list of talents is expected at the event. Many of them are past awardees as well as Star Maker and Golden Guitar winners. Most of the artists have highly successful recording careers and large fan bases all over the country. They can boast of chart-busting albums, record hits and songwriting awards.

Held over 20 venues from the City Mall to surrounding locations like Wentworth, Red Cliffs and Gol Gol, the festival features a wide range of activities from line dancing to country rock, bluegrass and bush ballads. There are talent searches like the “Top of the State”, Victorian Champion of Champions and crowd favorites like the “Girls' Night Out” and the “Rockabilly Show”.

The festival atmosphere is an added plus. Because the event is spread out over ten days, it is characterized by a “no-rush” ambiance even while it maintains the level of excitement. This is what makes the Mildura festival appealing to anyone wishing to indulge their passion for good, entertaining music. This relaxed tone extends as well to

the artists who enjoy ten days of relaxation and music as much as the festival fans do.

Mildura Country Music Festival 2011