FOR the first time in history, the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival looks all but set to be canned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Tamworth Regional Council will make the final decision at next week's council meeting on whether next year's event - the 49th festival - will go ahead after organisers recommended councillors vote to forgo council-run events.
The annual country music showcase regularly inspires more than 40,000 visitors to make the pilgrimage to the Australian country music capital and contributes more than $50 million to the local economy.
Festival manager Barry Harley said it was "a pretty hard decision" but it was the right one.
"The decision has to be made now, despite the fact there is four-and-half months left to go," Mr Harley said.
"We were fiercely defending the negative impact it would have by taking the potential $50 million the event generates out of the economy.
"However, the opposite to that is if we have to shut down the community for six or eight weeks, the effect that would have would be far greater than the loss of the 10 days of the festival.
"We believe this will give us a walk up to the 50th anniversary and the 50th anniversary is a massive opportunity to reinstate the festival as we have known it over the past 48 years, but to actually provide an even bigger celebration."
Oxley Police Chief Inspector Jeff Budd said the proposal put in front of council by event organisers "is the right proposal".
"The simplicity of this decision is this: do we put our community at risk in terms of their health, or do we push ahead with the festival which may in turn compromise the health of our community and even more widely the economy that surrounds it?" Chief Inspector Budd said.
"I applaud this decision and hopefully when council gets this information they will act on it appropriately."
Chief Inspector Budd said the police would be there to support the event in 2022, should councillors opt to cancel next year's event.
"Literally the minute one festival finishes we begin planning for the next festival," he said.
"We normally have an additional 40 officers come on board during the festival and we've seen a significant cultural shift around the festival, from a booze-up with music to a family-friendly event still with music.
"We are prepared to roll, support council and all of the venues, but it won't be until 2022."
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