Leave it to Australians to take something as foot-stomping, hand-clapping as country music and wrap something even more raucous around it. Country music is about having fun and Australians have invented a unique fun event known as BNS (or B&S) Balls in which country music figures in a big way.

The Wolf Brothers (pictured) have recently played at the Elmore BNS Ball

B(achelor) & S(pinster) Balls (or Blokes & Sheilas as some call them) were originally a boy-meets-girl event in rural Australia. Young 18 year old girls (considered spinsters!) and bachelors (age irrelevant) would dress in formal wear, introduce themselves and then … party. As things go, this traditional practice has become Mardi Gras Aussie style. Fun loving Aussies can travel long distances to attend these balls. Volumes of beer, Bundy rum and other alcoholic drinks flow freely starting from mid-afternoon when couples trek in and continues until the wee hours of the morning. And, of course, country music sets the tempo, provides the beat and gets the juices flowing. After the entertainment, everyone goes to sleep in their sleeping bags on their vehicles or wherever they can find a space!

In modern BNS Balls, the formal wear has been discarded in favour of threads from op shops, bush hats, boots and gear with an RM Williams label. For many, it's a time to bring out favourite costumes otherwise seen on Halloween. BNS Balls and Ute Musters often go together. Ute enthusiasts often run BNS Balls where they can show off their stuff. In an anything-goes environment.

A BNS is organized and run by a committee, or in some cases civic organizations and local councils. The tab includes meals, drinks and souvenirs such as stickers, hats and even condoms. Proceeds of these events are donated to charity, the favourites of which are often the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Red Cross and Australian Cancer Service. Local communities in which the balls are held also benefit from the events. In some events the organizers conduct a “recovery” where the people move to a new place and continue having fun. As many as 3,000 people attend the bigger BNS Balls such as The Plucked Duck in Goondawindi, Queensland. Australian and international bands (not necessarily country) as well as individual artists perform for an audience that includes many visitors from other countries.

DJ from Goondawindi BNS Ball

Rising insurance costs and tighter regulations have taken their toll on many BNS Balls. These factors plus the migration of many rural younger Australians to cities in order to work, have reduced attendance to BNS Balls. However, many Australians have launched private efforts to keep the tradition alive, and they are succeeding. Websites have sprung up announcing schedules, posting photos and videos, and hyping up the events in general. Some balls have tried to upgrade their image to attract a more stylish audience. The event in Rockhampton in northern Queensland, for instance, has renamed itself the Rocky New Year's Festival and now includes horse races, a cruise, picnic and a New Year's Eve party in formal wear. But, Australia being what it is, the fun and the frivolity are the things they can't change or take away.

For your chance to participate in one of these great Aussie traditions, don’t miss the upcoming Condobolin BNS ball on 9th July!