In March 1999, an idea generated by a small group of community minded people led by Council’s then Tourism Manager, got together with the aim to start a rural themed festival to bring visitors to Deniliquin, our beautiful vibrant town on the edge of the outback in a quiet visitation period – the NSW Labour Day Long Weekend (October).
Many suggestions were raised and discussions focused on the shape and genre of the new festival. What was unanimously agreed though, was that it must showcase our pride of our unique Deniliquin way of life.
With Deniliquin’s agricultural and farming roots and the magnificent Riverina plains nearby, the Ute and the plains were chosen as themes for a Festival for people of all ages. So the Deni Play on the Plains Festival was conceived, a festival to be held on the flattest, natural, open plains on earth, with Ute culture an intrinsic part of Deniliquin it would play a major part of the festival and hence the Deni World Record Ute Muster burst into the national psyche.
The Deniliquin Ute Muster and Play on the Plains Festival began on October 2, 1999, when Deniliquin wrote itself into history claiming the Guinness Book of Records title for the largest parade of legally registered Utes in the world.
When the concept of the Festival began, organisers hoped for 500 Utes, and maybe, if word spread far enough, 1000.
The first Festival included a horse-drawn wool wagon re-enactment, a family camp-out under the stars with a camp oven dinner, bush poetry and star gazing on a stock route just north of Deniliquin and the official Guinness World Record attempt was conducted. 2839 Utes took part in the parade, setting an official world record for the most number of legally paraded Utes. That record still stands today. Lee Kernaghan performed for the patrons on the Saturday night.
Deniliquin lay claim to the title of Ute Capital of the World after that first event, and erected the Ute on the Pole in celebration of the Festival’s success.
THE FESTIVAL TODAY
Since that first year, the Festival has shifted across the road from the original venue to accommodate the growth of the event. Today, the event attracts almost 25,000 people to the town of all ages to celebrate all things Australian and the icon of the Ute.
A new world record bid has been held as part of the annual Play on the Plains Festival each weekend since then, bringing more and more Utes and visitors to our town every year.
The Festival has a unique blend of activities for patrons, and free camping on the flattest plains on earth all for the one ticket price!
It has 2 night-time concerts featuring Australia best country and rock musicians, in 2010, Cold Chisel headlined the event in their only performance for the year! Also the Day Stage supports Australia’s best up and coming country music artists with playing music from 10am until 5pm each day.
It has 2 days packed with entertainment: The Australian National Circle Work Championships; Coates Hire Show N Shine competition including the title of Ute of the Year; Ute driving competitions including the Barrel Race – like horse barrel racing, but with vehicles! and GME Go To Wo precision driving event.
There’s also the setting of an official Guinness World Record at the Blue Singlet Count (current record: 3959 people wearing blue singlets); a Bull Ride Spectacular, over 80 high quality trade and catering sites; a Carnival Corner; free children’s activities; three licensed bars; a wine bar and roving entertainment.
Camping on-site is included in the ticket price. There are three unpowered camping areas – the Ute paddock, non-Ute camping area, and the family camping area. We also have Reserved Campsites that you can purchase.
OUR ICONIC DIAMOND STICKER
The Festival produces an iconic diamond sticker to celebrate each event.
The sticker represents Utes travelling to Deniliquin, and is loosely based on road signs (slippery when wet and caution signs).
Only a limited number of stickers are printed each year making them collector’s items.
These diamond stickers can only be put on Utes – they must not be stuck to sedans, trailers, vans, or motorhomes! And they are only available to Festival patrons when they drive their Ute through the gates – they cannot be purchased over the counter.
The sticker changes colour each year. The original yellow stickers can still be seen on vehicles around Australia despite being 17 years old!
The Festival now produces a bumper sticker in line with the theme colour of the year to allow all patrons and Festival supporters to stick them to sedans, trucks, trailers, caravans, motorhomes, and just about anything they choose!
OUR FABULOUS SUPPORT
The Festival has amazing community support, and more than 1200 volunteers mobilise each year to help put on the event – helping out with everything from wrist-banding and merchandise selling to litter collection and traffic control.
The Festival would not be where it is today without such fantastic support.
The event also generates money for community groups, who are paid for their services at the event, or operate catering sites as their major fundraiser for the year to continue to develop their club facilities.
After each event, more than $100,000 is donated back to the community to sporting clubs, community groups and schools. For example – clubs can earn up to $17,000 to operate a bar or $9,000 to operate a catering site.
The Festival is a major supporter of Deniliquin’s businesses, and more than $1 million is spent in businesses or employing contractors to put on the event each year.
On the Festival weekend, between $9 and $13 million is spent in Deniliquin by patrons and the same amount spent in NSW to attend the event.