FROM sheer disbelief, to utter disappointment and overwhelming relief, the community have reacted to the postponement of the 50th Tamworth Country Music Festival in different ways.
One week out from the festival based in NSW's north east and organisers made the agonising decision to postpone the event to April as the region's COVID-19 cases skyrocket.
Despite the state government giving major events the all clear to go ahead on Friday, a raft of new restrictions including the banning of singing and dancing at venues was the final straw for stakeholders who were already dealing with growing artist cancellations.
The festival will instead go ahead from April 18 to 24, 2022, based on NSW government modelling that COVID numbers will peak in the coming weeks.
Festival manager Barry Harley said in the lead up to the decision on Friday, several big artists and key stakeholders had already pulled the pin.
He said cancelling was not an option, but neither was going ahead in January.
"Financially, we took $50 or $60 million out last year when we cancelled 2021 so we weren't real keen to do it again," he said.
"Which led to option three which was to postpone, which means we can transfer a lot of the components of the January festival into that April date."
The Leader asked the Tamworth community how they're feeling following the announcement. Read their reactions below:
Cranky campers call postponement 'cruel'
This week fans and their caravans started rolling in fast for the country music festival but now they'll be forced to pack up camp.
For the seventh year in a row Denise Anastasakis has travelled from Dorrigo to pitch her tent at the Riverside ovals for the 10-day festival but now she'll be heading back home
Paying $280 for her camping spot Ms Anastasakis said to leave the decision to the last minute was "disappointing" and "cruel".
"I could have stayed home," she said.
"I think there's going to be a lot of angry people."
Most years Ms Anastasakis said you'd find her having a dance and a sing at the free shows at the cities pubs and clubs but this year she'll be left with the sound of her radio on the way home.
"That's the whole excitement of it, it's mingling and dancing to the music you've waited all year to hear."
Despite the festival being scaled back last year Ms Anastasakis said she still made the trip to the country music capital to support the city.
"Tamworth and all the bands are going to be financially devastated again."
Health workers relieved after 'sensible' decision
EXPONENTIAL growth in COVID-19 case numbers in Tamworth had doctors and health workers "very concerned" about the impact the busy country music festival would inevitably have had if it went ahead next week.
Tamworth GP Dr Ian Kamerman told the Leader everyone was looking forward to the anniversary event but he could not see any logical way to kick it off while the local case count was surging so rapidly.
"To consider holding a multi-day festival during the exponential growth phase of a pandemic, in an environment where our health resources are already beyond stretched, is far from sensible," he said.
Dr Kamerman was relieved the festival was postponed, due to the high transmission rate of the Omicron variant and the fact that the city's current outbreak was already doubling its growth rate every four days.
He said he couldn't see how the event could have been run safely and in a way that didn't further strain the regional healthcare system.
The postponement comes on the same day the region's health workers penned an open letter to Tamworth Regional Council warning the hospital and GP system, as well as the PCR testing facilities in Tamworth, could not cope with the expected influx of unwell visitors from the event.
The letter said hangovers and raspy voices from singing could be confused with minor COVID-19 symptoms and would need screening during the festival.
It recommended rapid testing at least daily for people entering venues, noting that would require hundreds of thousands.
Festival announcement 'devastating for business'
BUSINESSES will be thousands of dollars out-of-pocket with the news the festival won't go ahead until April, and Tamworth Business Chamber president Stephanie Cameron wants the state government to reimburse them in full.
"The chamber and Tamworth Regional Council wants Kevin Anderson as Minister for Hospitality and the state government to fund wide-scale advertising to promote those new dates, and we are looking for support for those businesses who are out-of-pocket," she said.
"It's disappointing and devastating, the NSW Government told us to get on with it and live with the virus and it's just devastating - we were provided with a false sense of hope.
"It's going to be hard for some businesses and my heart breaks for them."
Ms Cameron said the state government should repay businesses for stock and anything else that can't be reused for the new April dates.
"I think it should be 100 per cent recovery, the government told us everything would be fine, there would be no more restrictions and they haven't backed that up," she said.
She also encouraged accommodation providers to review their cancellation policies to allow bookings to be transferred to the new date.
Musos heartbroken by delayed festival
Country singer and 2TM broadcaster Sally-Anne Whitten said the cancellation of the historic 50th country music festival would have been the final straw for much of the industry.
The music industry has been among the worst-hit by the pandemic.
With much of the industry made up of self-funded sole-traders, finances are universally stretched to the limit.
Ms Whitten said it was going to be hard to be able to muster up the enthusiasm to organise another festival in just a few months and has yet to figure out how April will work.
"I want to be positive, I really want to be positive about it because it'd be so good celebrate the anniversary," she said.
"It's hard to maintain that level of optimism when this has just happened so many times. It's a bit hard to muster up enthusiasm to gather up again, to replan again. I don't know what options we have though. It's probably not the right thing to do to go ahead with the music festival at the moment. So I don't know what the answer is. But it's just a bit devastating for everybody I think."
Amber Lawrence was actually fitting outfits for the 50th festival when the news hit.
After thinking it wouldn't happen for a long, she had been "feeling pretty positive" about the event just a week out, but said the new date was at least a ray of hope.
"Musicians are numb now," she said.
"We take any decision that happens and we say well it is what it is."
There's one bright side, she said: "I'm sure everyone is going to say this, we probably won't be as hot and sweaty."