The origins of the Deni Ute Muster can be traced back to March 1999 when a small group of community-minded Deniliquin’s got together with one goal: to put together a rural festival aimed at bringing in tourists on the quiet NSW Labour Day long weekend.
With a clear objective in mind, the next step was shaping it to both reflect the town’s own history, vibrancy and culture, and to interest fellow rurals from around the country. Of course, Deniliquin’s deep agricultural roots needed to be a focus, and thus the Play on the Plains Festival was born – a huge festival situated on Deni’s flattest open plain. However, something else was missing.
The group agreed that somehow the ute had to be incorporated into the celebration. With the classic ute muster already so well ingrained into the national psyche, it seemed only natural that something similar would be included. And so, the very first Play on the Plains Festival and Deniliquin Ute Muster kicked off on October 2, 1999, subsequently writing Deniliquin into the pages of history.
A Festival For the Ages
The inaugural Deni Ute Muster is something that the people of Deniliquin, and the world, will never forget.
Initially, the festival organisers hoped for around 500 utes to participate in the festivities – a humble goal for a then-humble festival. The festival’s first edition included horse-drawn wool wagon re-enactment, a family camp-out under the stars with a camp oven dinner, bush poetry and star Michigan gazing. It also set out to take crown for the largest parade of legally registered utes in the world.
With 500 vehicles set as the target, festival organisers were shocked as celebrations kicked off and the utes began flooding in. Their initial goal was quickly smashed as the numbers crept towards 1000. Soon this was doubled, and then some.
When things finally settled and the official count could take place, history was made in Deniliquin. 2839 utes were counted in total. And with it, Deniliquin became the official ute capital of the world.
The Deni Ute Muster Today
Since 1999, the Deni Ute Muster has continued to grow and today almost 25,000 ute fans of all ages flock to Deniliquin to take part in the festivities.
Aside from the festival’s ‘utes and music’ backbone, there is a huge array of activities to indulge patrons of all ages including The Australian National Circle Work Championships, the Coates Hire Show N Shine comp, ute driving comps like the barrel race, the Bull Ride spectacular, carnival rides, bars and a massive selection of markets to check out.
Each year the Deni Ute Canopy draws sone huge names in Aussie music, with a focus on rock and country. 2015 saw Cold Chisel emerge from a short hiatus to play their only show of the year. 2016 will see the likes of Keith Urban and Shannon Noll taking the stage alongside a lineup of emerging local acts and some of Australia’s finest country artists.
The Deni Ute Muster also holds the Guinness World record of the Blue Singlet Count, which currently sits at 3959. Each year, the festival also breaks its own record of the largest Parade of Legally Registered Utes in the world. In 2015, 9736 utes were counted – an incredible feat for a town that is home to just 8000 people. Long live the ute!