Wee Waa Breaks Silence Over Impending Daft Punk Party: “Even The Old Folks Are Excited!”
An ex-local's guide to the best coffee, pubs, hotels and activities, to get the most out of your Wee Waa weekend.
The first 18 years of my life were spent in a tiny town called Wee Waa, a place you’d probably never heard of until yesterday. It’s “off the map”, “bumfuck nowhere” and a thousand other cliches used to describe “somewhere far from Sydney”.
Yesterday, my hometown – 571 km out of Sydney – was most famous for pioneering DNA testing and being regularly underwater. But today, it was confirmed that Daft Punk will be premiering their new album, Random Access Memories, as part of the annual Wee Waa Show, undoubtedly bringing a flood of excited fans to the small town.
It seems everyone in Wee Waa has known the Show Society’s worst kept secret for weeks, and the chance to get “back on the map” (as local publican Luke Noble put it) has put the town into ecstatic overdrive. Calum Drysdale (Wee Waa local, Show Society member and former Champion Boy Rider, 2005) describes it as “the best thing to happen in Wee Waa since Jamie Lyons”: “Even the old folks are excited!” he says.
So, to help ease you all into North-West NSW, here’s an ex-local’s Guide to Wee Waa.
The Wee Waa Show Itself:
People will try to tell you that Daft Punk’s album premiere is the main event of the Wee Waa Show this year. In reality, the show highlights the myriad talents of Wee Waa’s community – from cotton growers to horse trainers, potato farmers to woodchoppers. “The show will run as normal,” reassures Brett Dickinson, President of the Wee Waa Show Society. “On Friday, the gates will open at 3pm and everything will go ahead as normal. We’ve got a demolition derby on Saturday night, and fireworks on Friday and Saturday.”
Alongside the exploding things are the show’s typical horse events, ute muster, baby show, ‘Wee Waa Has Talent’, wood chop, local trade exhibits, and the yearly Farmer’s Challenge. And with the promise of a large crowd, carnies are returning with their sideshows. “In the past, it’s been hard to get carnies to commit to the show,” says Luke Noble, publican at local watering hole The Imperial Hotel. “There was always somewhere with more money on the way before they made it to Wee Waa.”
Of the reinvigorated show, Calum Drysdale says, “Last year, there was maybe one set of dodgem cars. [This year there’ll be] more sideshows, a better show. I’m excited to see it taking off.”
Wee Waa is the cotton capital of Australia. While that may not sound so exciting at first, the Australian cotton industry is worth in excess of $2.5 billion a year. When April comes around and picking begins, you’ll find the roadside covered in miscellaneous soft-and-fluffy cotton detritus, and hundreds of contractors in town to help with the picking.
Growing cotton is hard work. Aside from a volatile export market, simply irrigating a crop takes hours of hard labour – not to mention the hours needed to plant, pick and refine the cotton. “During picking we work 16-18 hour days,” Calum says.
Once you make it to Wee Waa, Narrabri Shire Tourism can be contacted to organise visits to local Cotton Gins – or you can try your luck cold calling local farmers. Don’t worry, they don’t shoot.
Yarrie Lake, Burren Bore and The Namoi River:
It gets pretty hot in Wee Waa, with the average summer temperature sitting at 37 degrees. Thankfully, nature has provided many ways to cool your sweaty head.
Yarrie lake, located 26 kilometres out of Wee Waa proper, is a meteor-formed lake that, when full, is one of the largest. You could also head to the Namoi River, which wraps around the town and is a great place to swim. Locals will be able to guide you to any number of delightful spots with swings, ladders and safe diving areas.
To mix things up, you could head to Burren Bore, a bath supplied with hot water from the sub-artesian basin. Basically, it’s a big hole in the ground with hot, thousand-year-old water. Just about as relaxing as water can get.
There is no ‘big thing’ in Wee Waa.
Despite Australia having a reputation for ‘big things’, a la the Big Pineapple and the Big Banana, Wee Waa doesn’t have a Big Thing. We do, however, have the Australia Telescope, the most powerful radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.
You have to book in advance for a tour, but it’s worth the effort. For just $2 a head, you’ll be treated to a hands-on tour through the Australia Telescope facility. It’s best to book in groups, so bring all your friends.
After a long drive from Sydney, you’ll need to eat, and maybe have a drink. The best (and perhaps only) coffee in town comes from the Wee Waa Hot Bread Shop – or you can head across the road to the Olympia Cafe for a milkshake.
In the evening, there’s a wide selection of rural dining locations, but most easily accessed are The Royal Hotel, Wee Waa Bowls Club, the Wee Waa Hotel and The Imperial Hotel. Of particular interest is The Imperial, the first three story structure to be built in North-West NSW. Having survived floods and more than a few fires, The Imperial serves the finest pub food in town. They’re currently undergoing renovations to bring The Imperial “from the 19th century into the 21st”, but will be open for food and drinks over the show weekend.
If you want to take a bit of a drive, the Junction City Hotel in Burren Junction, run by Craig “The Grog Father” Lusby, is an amazing watering hole, and conveniently close to the aforementioned Burren Bore. Two birds with one stone, right?
Having somewhere to stay is important, too – and due to a large force of contract workers who work during cotton season, bed space will be at a premium during the Daft Punk/Wee Waa Show. “We’ve got a lot of workers staying here already,” says Luke, from the Imperial. “As soon as the news came through, we’d sold out the last of our rooms!”
Most importantly, the town’s spirits are high. “Even now, it’s bigger than we ever expected,” said Brett Dickinson. “A huge injection of travellers and money into the community that we’ve never seen before.”
So don’t miss out on Wee Waa in 2013 – it’s harder, better, faster, stronger than you’d ever expect.
Alex Sol Watts is a Wee Waa-born and Sydney-based freelance writer, marketer and militant beegan. You can find him on twitter at @solwat.