[SIZE=2]Ballina will witness a first since its settlement in 1840. On the long weekend October 1 – 3, 2011. Ballina will host its first country music festival.[/SIZE]

The event, to be headlined by country music favourite Troy Cassar-Daley will be held at the same time as the Marine Rescue Ballina Boat and Rescue Show, the North Coast Fishing Bonanza and the Ballina Island Paddle Challenge, promising days filled with fun and excitement.

Ballina, located on the most easterly point of the continent, is along the Pacific Highway, on the northern shore of the Richmond River near Cape Byron. About 200 km. or 3 hours drive south of Brisbane, Ballina was settled by Irish timber cutters looking for Red Cedar which was plentiful along the banks of the area's rivers and creeks. The Indigenous Australian name of the place was Bullenah, meaning a “place of many oysters”. It sounded to the Irish like Ballina town in County Mayo in Ireland, hence the name they gave it. The lighthouse Richmond River Light was built in 1866 and replaced with its present one in 1880. In the 1860's sugarcane was introduced to the area and became a popular crop. With the timber and the sugarcane farms came a bustling port which serviced ships plying the coast and the produce from the interior of the area. There was a time when Ballina was the third busiest port in New South Wales.

In 1973, the rafts of the Las Balsas expedition, the only multiple raft crossing in modern history, starting from Ecuador headed for Mooloolaba in Queensland, were towed into Ballina after the rafts were blown off course. The rafts had traveled almost twice the distance as the famous Kon-Tiki expeditions of 1947. In the 1970's and 1980's, Ballina held an annual festival celebrating the crossing of the “Southern Cross”, the monoplane flown by the Australian pilot Sir Charles Kingsford Smith in the first trans-Atlantic flight from the USA to Australia.

With a population of almost 20,000, Ballina is a favorite destination for water sports and recreational fishing, thanks to the abundant marine wildlife in the river and its tributaries. The inaugural Ballina Coastal Country Music Festival will add another attraction to the town. During the festival, the main street will be closed and Fawcett Park will house the center stage and be the focus of the free community and family entertainment activities. Aside from Troy Cassar-Daley, other country artists who have signified their intention to participate in the festival are Graham Rodger, the Round Mountain Girls, Kathryn Jones, Jabiru and Rey Essery and The Bush Poets. Troy Cassar-Daley will give the only concert with an entrance fee on Friday night at the Ballina RSL Club. Busking competitions will be held on River Street and a schools program is being planned.

After several efforts to start music festivals in Ballina, the organizers are confident that the Ballina Coastal Country Music Festival will prove to be the one to bring in the crowds.

Ballina Country Music Festival