SYDNEY Oct 12 In the small rural town of
Deniliquin, on the edge of Australia's vast outback, around
20,000 "ute" lovers gathered in the mud to champion a national
treasure deemed surplus to requirements by the big car
Part car, part pickup truck, the Australian-made utility
vehicle has become synonymous with farmers Down Under and is the
centrepiece of the annual Deni Ute Muster festival, a two-day
alcohol-fuelled celebration of all things rural Australia.
Now in its 18th year, the festival has grown to include
country music performances from Grammy award-winning artist
Keith Urban, a rodeo, whip-cracking championship and gallery of
artwork created with chainsaws.
But it's the "utes" that keep the revellers coming back,
even though a deluge of rain turned the usually dusty New South
Wales state venue, some 300 km (186 miles) north of Melbourne,
into a mud pit.
Sky Fulcher drove her black and pink Ford Falcon XR8 named
"Rumble Princess" around 3,300km (2050 miles) from Perth for
three days across the Nullabor Plain to attend the festivities,
played out at a difficult time for the vehicle in Australia.
Ford rolled their last Australian-made Falcon "ute" off the
production line in July and Holden said they will cease making
similar vehicles in 2017 as buyers look to more fuel-efficient,
Both brands trail Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai, according to
September sales data for the Federal Chamber of Automotive
"It is extremely sad that they (Ford) are closing down
production in Australia, but we don't believe that this will
affect our festival," Anika Ahmad Bull, part of the organising
team, told Reuters.
Folklore says the humble "ute" was born when a farmer's wife
wrote to a car manufacturer in the 1930s asking for a vehicle
that could go to church on Sunday and carry the pigs to market
While nationwide popularity has dropped, Bull and her
not-for-profit team have been able to buck the trend and grow
the festival from a humble vehicle 'show and shine' into a wild
celebration of all things Australian country.
A A$10,000 ($7,500) prize was up for grabs for the 'Ute of
the Year', while A$500 rewards were on offer in 13 other
categories including best 'chick's ute' and best 'refurbished
Others, though, just wanted to drink in the mood.
"It's a party that doesn't stop, it's a great atmosphere and
everyone gets on with everyone," said 27-year-old delivery
driver Darren McGarvie, who used the backtray of his "ute" as a
bed for the festival.
($1 = 1.3187 Australian dollars)
(Editing by Patrick Johnston and Michael Perry)