PLAYING WITH FIRE: Johnny Cash Country Festival organisers Andy, Brian and Sarah Wilmott say there is still time for the iconic festival to go ahead this year.
PLAYING WITH FIRE: Johnny Cash Country Festival organisers Andy, Brian and Sarah Wilmott say there is still time for the iconic festival to go ahead this year.

Coronavirus a lingering threat to Johnny Cash festival

EVENT organisers for the Johnny Cash Country Festival are hopeful this year’s event will walk the line, despite coronavirus restrictions plaguing further planning.

The two-day festival would see close to a thousand devoted country and western fans descend on the Stanthorpe Showgrounds.

Event organiser Brian Wilmott said tentative plans had been made in the event the festival could go ahead.

“We haven’t organised groups yet or anything because the general opinion is that we’re not confident it’s going to happen this year,” Mr Wilmott said.

“We’re still planning for it but if things don’t improve by mid-September, we are going to have to push it to next year.”

The popularity of the festival has grown significantly over the past four years, according to Mr Wilmott.

Last year’s festival attracted about 600 people.

The day Johnny Cash turned up on the main street of Stanthorpe. Photographer at the time, Col Mason, snapped this now iconic image, while Border Post editor, Michael Fishpool, interviewed the famed musician.
The day Johnny Cash turned up on the main street of Stanthorpe. Photographer at the time, Col Mason, snapped this now iconic image, while Border Post editor, Michael Fishpool, interviewed the famed musician.

With festivalgoers drawn in from across the country, any decision to cancel this year’s event would be another economic blow for the Granite Belt region.

“It’s significant; you do the sums and if you have 1000 people, as we hoped to get, and they spend $200 in the two days, it’s a lot of money into the economy,” he said.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community in two days, and maybe longer because they’d stay for another few days.”

If cancellation is the only option in 2020, Mr Wilmott said he wouldn’t lose sight of his ultimate goal of turning the Granite Belt into Cash country.

“The aim from the beginning was we wanted to do for Stanthorpe what Elvis Presley has done for Parkes (NSW),” he said.

“Believe it or not, last year Parkes enjoy a $10 million influx of money in the five-day Elvis festival.

“We aren’t talking those numbers yet.”

A final decision on the festival’s status is expected to be made in mid-September.