It seems that where there’s cold and drizzle, there’s lamb and potatoes in abundance. At least this holds true in England, where the combination is regarded as a “luxurious” national favourite. It also appears so in Guyra, NSW, a comparatively chilly part of Australia where curtains of sleet and mist often wash over the streets of this tiny New England town. As every year folk gather here for the annual Lamb and Potato festival – an event that’s turned into the town’s biggest drawcard.
Now I’m not a lamb and potato person, but I’m certainly into cultural community events and I thought the festival – which runs from the 14th to the 28th of January every year – would be a great way to tap into New England country life, and it was.
Now how did all this lamb and potato business start? Back in 1987, a group of growers and graziers chatted over dinner and decided to put on a barbie beneath a tent to promote the region’s produce – lamb and potatoes of course. The idea was to coincide the event with the Tamworth Country Music Festival and get travellers passing through to stop and check out Guyra.
The plan seems to be working, as today the festival has people lining up to scoff lamb and spuds in their various forms – pies, chops, burgers, sausages and sausage rolls. However the festival also prides itself on showcasing a variety of locally made goodies, all under a row of handsome elm trees. One lady was selling the largest variety of butters (one of my all-time favourite foodstuffs) I’ve ever seen, which included an exotic passion fruit butter and a whopping variety of jams.
Also on offer are a variety of clothes, trinkets, gourmet goodies, a train ride for the kids, a talent quest, live music, sheep shearing and a mashed potato fight. Okay I made up that last bit, but the event is trying hard to become more than just a stop on the way to Tamworth and I think it’s just about there.
While strolling about, my four-year-old kept bugging me to buy him a toy and I managed to find him a home-made wooden one, which he loved, before he savagely licked a Guyra gelato and enjoyed the festival train ride. In all he had a great time.
I also bumped into vice president of the now sizeable Lamb and Potato festival committee, Ian Russell, who showed a palpable pride for Guyra and its annual, growing event. I even chatted to a few locals who revealed to me how friendly the place is. Here they all band together, which is one of the things, Ian tells me, he likes about living in Guyra most of all.
A few fast facts
- Guyra is located midway between Glen Innes and Armidale on the New England Highway in northern NSW, roughly 550km north of Sydney.
- Festival attendees presently consume around 110 lambs and over 500 kilograms of potatoes.
- While only a small town, Guyra is also renown for its esoteric past, such as arguably Australia’s most famous poltergeist incident and a meteorite landing.