MUSIC MAKERS: Ready to bring country to the coast are Ballina Country Music Festival organizer Carol Stacey, Ben Franklin MLC and Tere Sheehan manager of the event's major venue the Cherry Street Sports Club.
MUSIC MAKERS: Ready to bring country to the coast are Ballina Country Music Festival organizer Carol Stacey, Ben Franklin MLC and Tere Sheehan manager of the event's major venue the Cherry Street Sports Club.

Don't miss the free country music at Ballina

THREE days, six venues and more than a 100 artists providing free entertainment on seven stages throughout Ballina, the Ballina Country Music Festival is something a little different from norm.

The event, now in its eighth year, will be held from Friday, November 1 through to Sunday, November 3 across the town.

This year's festival kicks off with a "Festival Free Concert" while Saturday will see the major ticketed concert Travellin' Still - The Songs of Slim Dusty.

"Travellin' Still features the original members of Slim's band and has been sanctioned by Slim's wife Joy McKean," event spokesman Garry Lavercombe said.

"Both shows will be staged in a special marquee to be erected at Cherry Street Sports Club and there will be only one show to have a nominal cover charge with all other acts over the weekend presented free to the public."

He said the free shows were possible thanks to the support of local businesses and sponsors.

The festival is a labor of love for festival organiser and originator Carol Stacey and musical journeyman Garry - part of an original bigger committee when the event started almost a decade ago but are now, according to Gary "the chief cook and bottlewashers".

"Carol has a great love of country music and knows a lot the artists, she goes to Tamworth every year," he said.

For Garry, 70, who started in bands in the 60s and has done all sorts of jobs in the music industry, this is a way to keep doing what he loves even though he officially hung up his drum sticks and played in his last band, Fossil Rock, last year.

But when you have had a career as diverse as Garry's which has seen him work as muso, tour manager, entertainment agent and everything in between it's hard to let go altogether.

"The most surprising thing I did was working with the Bolshoi Ballet," he said of his job as production-coordinator with Michael Edgley from 89-95 across seven countries.

And while he admits the Ballina Country Music Festival is small by comparison to the Moscow Circus and Bolshoi Ballet it is still important to his home-town bringing 8000 visitors into the town over the three days.

ballinacountrymusic.com.