Fans flood Tamworth for festival's return

Hours before he was set to jump onstage at a free performance at Tamworth's Bicentennial Park, 12-time Golden Guitar winner Adam Brand was already attracting a big crowd.

Mother and daughter Debbie (63) and Christy Killeen (41) staked out a spot near the stage early, patiently sitting and waiting in matching camping chairs.

Despite being Tamworth locals and country music fans, the two were attending their first Country Music Festival in years.

Debbie had been battling a debilitating auto-immune disease, which had kept her from seeing her favourite country music artists, including Brand and Beccy Cole.

Now well enough to go out, Debbie was determined to attend as many shows as possible and Brand was right up there on her to-do list.

"It's been a special time," Christy said of her opportunity to enjoy the festival with her mum.

After four years of drought, a year of bushfires and two years of COVID-19 cancellations, Tamworth Country Music Festival director Barry Harley says the return of fans is an important boost for the community.

Back in its traditional January timeslot for its 51st rendition, crowds are once again thronging to Australia's country music capital.

Mr Harley, who first became involved with the festival as a set designer, told AAP he was delighted with this year's attendance.

"As organisers, we were never arrogant enough to expect that everyone would automatically come back," he said.

"We worked pretty hard to encourage them to come back."

Mr Harley said the festival was attracting 40,000 to 50,000 visitors per day and with more than 600 artists performing across 60 venues, meaning it has easily reclaimed its title as Australia's biggest music festival.

This year the weather gods have blessed Tamworth with warm and sunny conditions.

Visitors flow through market stalls selling country staples such as Akubra hats and cowboy boots, a healthy money-spinner for local merchants.

The festival's return is a welcome boost to the region after years of poor luck, pumping $60 million into Tamworth.

Fans have already been treated to performances from country stars such as Lee Kernaghan, Ashleigh Dallas and Troy Cassar-Daley, as well as more than 200 buskers filling the city's Peel Street with a constant hum of music.

Kernaghan surprised fans with an unannounced performance on Friday morning, treating unsuspecting festival-goers to his iconic 1992 song Boys from the Bush.

Just a stone's throw away, busker Scotty Burford was battling through the final hour of a mammoth guitar marathon as he attempted to set the world record for the longest consecutive busking session, which stood at 26 hours.

Exhausted but in good spirits, he just managed to get over the line, setting a new mark of 26 hours and four minutes.

Wollongong-based Burford, who also holds the record for longest continuous guitar jam session at 125 hours, was raising money for Ronald McDonald House and Movember, two charities close to his heart.

He earlier told the ABC his support stemmed from the loss of a friend who took their life at a young age.

"It's never left me, so everything I've done for mental health has been because of that," he said.

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