It’s not every day I get an opportunity to visit a small town I haven’t been to, let alone heard of. So when I was asked earlier this year if I wanted to go to an ABBA festival in Trundle, my answer was “I do I do I do.”
Admittedly a few days before the festival I couldn’t tell the Mr Minit man at Manuka where exactly Trundle was or how long it would take to get there from Canberra, when he asked why I needed to colour an old pair of knee high leather boots white.
The event drew around 5000 people on 5 May, providing both economic benefits for the tiny central west NSW town of less than one-fifth of that, and a lot of fun for die-hard fans of ABBA.
Normally held in the town’s main street and in various other locations, this time the event was held solely at Berryman Oval to accommodate the large crowds.
It all started in 2012 after local couple Gary and Ruth Crowley went to the long-running Elvis festival in nearby Parkes, and thought it would be great if they could also go to an ABBA festival.
But there wasn’t one, so they decided to create one themselves.
Joined by just two others – Gary’s sisters Sue and Pam – the four manage to coordinate everything involved with holding the festival while otherwise holding down full time jobs in the town.
Appreciation of their efforts is returned through people showing up in crazy wigs, feathers, sequinned costumes, white boots and white flares.
This year one group paid a tribute to Arrival, the 1976 album that secured ABBA’s global superstardom, by donning white jump suits and fluorescent wigs topped with small white caps and miniature helicopters. They were acknowledged in the hotly contested Fashions of the Festival competition, for best dressed group.
Kiama man Alan Waistell was best dressed man of the festival, for taking the trouble to build a replica of the Trundle Hotel, post office, hardware shop and its memorial hall, and wearing them on his head. The masterpiece took 30 hours to construct and wasn’t the easiest thing to get around in, considering he also wore ridiculously high platform shoes stamped with ABBA.
“I thought I would get a bit loud this year,” he said.
Other entrants included Canberra residents Mandy Hudson, Wendy Landon, Leanne O’Donohue and Stacey Donnelly, all who came for the first time. Dubbed the ‘Abba Dabba Doozies’, their costumes consisted of purple, silver and blue sequins.
Local member and now Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had the honour of judging the competition. Decked out in white bell-bottom pants, a matching shirt and fluorescent blue vest, he conceded it was an odd situation to find himself in.
“Would you believe I’m the deputy PM?” he joked.
“If only Malcolm could see me now, as I look very ridiculous at the moment.
“Please take a chance on me.”
For Robyn Abernethy, who now lives on the NSW Central Coast, the festival is an opportunity to return to her childhood home and catch up with her 88-year-old mum Nancy, and anywhere between 15 and 20 others who stay with them over the weekend the ABBA festival is held.
“I think its fantastic for the town,” she said.
As is now the tradition, ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again performed at the conclusion of the festival on Berryman oval, topping off the carnival atmosphere with all of the tracks from the Swedish group’s Arrival album, and a medley of other popular hits.
The band has performed more than 5000 shows in 70 countries in the past 25 years, and returned to Trundle for the fourth time this year.