The Deniliquin Ute Muster has claimed gold in the Australian Tourism Awards, while BIG4 Deniliquin Holiday Park snared silver.By Zoe McMaugh
Deniliquin is officially home to the best event in Australia.
The Deniliquin Ute Muster and Play on the Plains Festival won gold at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards ceremony in Tasmania on Friday night.
In an extra coup for the local area, the BIG4 Deniliquin Caravan Park won silver in the Tourist and Caravan Parks category.
Both businesses got to the national awards after dominating first at the Inland Tourism NSW awards and then at the state level.
Muster general manager John Harvie said both wins cemented Deniliquin as a popular tourist destination.
‘‘It’s great for the town,’’ he said.
‘‘The Hobart Mercury pointed out that six of the 27 awards went to Tasmania, and two came home to Deni.
‘‘We have done well as a town.
‘‘We’ve also got one of the best tourist parks in Australia, with BIG4 getting silver.’’
The Ute Muster’s Festivals and Events category was one of the last to be presented on the night, but Mr Harvie said it was worth the wait.
‘‘To have brought home gold — it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s a community award.
‘‘I have always thought we had the best event in Australia, so it was no surprise to win.
‘‘But this win shows the Muster is held in high regard across the country .
Like Mr Harvie, Deniliquin Play on the Plains Limited chair Harold Clapham put the Muster’s win down to a supportive community and a dedicated band of staff and volunteers.
‘‘It’s wonderful recognition for the town, and this award belongs to all those people who have supported the event.
‘‘It is incredible to think that during the drought, through water issues and everything else thrown at us, we can get national recognition at this level.
‘‘It’s a reflection of how strong and resilient this community is.
‘‘Up until this year we have had no assistance from the government .
Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick said the victories were satisfying for Deniliquin Council because of its involvement with the development of both winners, particularly the Ute Muster.
‘‘The Deni Ute Muster was born at a meeting jointly initiated by our tourism manager Gai Geddes and Chamber of Commerce president Kathy Simpson back in 1999.
‘‘Gai, Kathy and everyone else in the community who has been involved in its growth, no matter how big or small their contribution, should feel a sense of pride at being part of a national victory.
‘‘Deniliquin Council, which has been part of the festival since day one, extends our heartiest congratulations to past and present Ute Muster personnel.’’
Cr Renwick said the wins showed Deniliquin had ‘‘come of age’’ as a tourist destination, which he said would only strengthen the town’s economic standing.
‘‘It is extremely satisfying when we see our tourism operators getting recognition, at whatever level.
‘‘To win these accolades at the national awards is a stunning achievement.
‘‘Appropriately, this occurred on the weekend of a hugely successful Deniliquin Fishing Classic .
‘‘On behalf of council, my thanks and congratulations to everyone who is making a contribution to our tourism growth.’’
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