Festival recasts Narromine as 'Dollymine'

·2-min read

Susie Rae was driving through western NSW in her boyfriend's ute, with no air-conditioning and static roaring from the radio.

In search of relief, they pulled into a service station somewhere between Trangie and Nyngan and bought Prince and Dolly Parton's greatest hits on cassette in a two-for-$5 deal.

Decades later, that boyfriend is her husband but the Dolly Parton tape is long gone, shredded from countless listens.

Parton's love songs and odes to the Tennessee Smoky Mountains became the soundtrack to Mrs Rae's life as she raised her children and worked on the family farm in Narromine, near Dubbo.

Next month, she is bringing her passion for Nashville to Narromine, running Australia's first Dolly Parton festival in the heart of cropping country, 430 kilometres northwest of Sydney.

"Narromine is normally a place people are just passing through, it's not a destination," said Mrs Rae, who was born and raised in the town of 6000.

"I want to make it a destination. I want it to be known not as Narromine, but Dollymine."

Musicians, including Golden Guitar winner Kirsty Lee Akers, impersonators and fans will fill Dandaloo Street on the October long weekend for tribute shows, dress-up competitions, movie screenings and singalongs across town.

A group of local women has been working beyond nine to five to get the festival off the ground over the past six months after the local council was given a state government grant to be used before March.

Mrs Rae's phone is running hot, with coverage in international music publications like NME and American Songwriter.

Her voicemail greeting sounds like something from Parton, who is famous for quips like, "Gotta keep your hair, heels and standards high".

Mrs Rae's greeting chirps: "Pick up the phone darl, pick up the phone darl ... I'll call you back when my hair is dry".

But her-long held dream for a Parton festival runs deeper than a desire for some glitz and glamour.

Inspired by the success of the Parkes Elvis festival, Tamworth's annual country music celebrations and a new ABBA tribute show in Trundle, the Parton celebration is a way to come together and recover from years of drought and pandemic lockdowns.

"Our community needs to keep things ticking along," Mrs Rae said.

"We have good times and bad times and having something to look forward to is wonderful."

Mrs Rae admires Parton's values of generosity and inclusion, like her Imagination Library, which gifts books to children, and her funding of COVID vaccine research.

"Her story is rags to riches. She was poor and she had an amazing talent, and that was recognised even though they were so isolated."

She hopes to show there's more to Narromine too.

"'It's in my heart. It's a wonderful community, a true-blue country town."