(ABOVE IMAGE: Miles Historical Village volunteers Lyn Holgate, Julie Weger, Carol Tribe, Karen Williams, and Robyn Coleman)
By HARRY CLARKE
WHAT an answer Neil Asplin gave, when the Miles local and history buff was asked what he loved most about the hulking steam engine he had on display at his home town’s Back to the Bush festival.
“You don’t just hop on and start one of these, you bring it to life,” Neil said.
“I like the idea that you’re the custodian of the machine for your life, then one day someone else becomes the custodian.
“This one was built in the UK in 1911 and spent its working life in Victoria. It was used for direct traction ploughing.”
Many elements of the Miles district’s rich heritage were brought to life at the rollicking Back to the Bush festival, which this year marked the 50th anniversary of the renowned Miles Historical Village.
Thousands of Western Downs locals and tourists from afar flooded through the museum and out to the Centenary Park sporting grounds to enjoy a huge variety of events and displays on offer.
The four-day program was colourful, classic and quirky.
There was the street parade, the gala ball and the market stalls. There was also the dog high jump, the tractor pull, and the “tough bugger” obstacle course.
There were camp oven cooking demonstrations and a billy boiling competition, a beard appreciation competition and much more.
Rob Harmon is a sheep shearer from Tara whose father once told him “you’ve gotta shear 10,000 sheep before you can call yourself a sheep shearer”.
Rob reckons he’s shorn a million, and anyone who watched his impressive live demonstration on the main stage would not find that hard to believe.
Did you know the standard amount of time it takes to shear a single sheep is about three minutes, but the time varies depending on where you’re geographically located?
On poorer country the fleeces aren’t as wooly and voluminous, so your rate of shearing tends to be quicker.
That’s an example of the kind of stuff you’re enlightened with at Back to the Bush.
“Go you little buggers! Run! Run! Run!”
That was Western Downs councillor and Miles local Kylie Bourne, who was on the microphone while the kids were taking part in the festival favourite “tough bugger” obstacle course.
Participants have to crawl through a pit of mud, weave through a set of pegs and haul sacks of sand among a raft of other unusual challenges.
It’s funny watching the kids do it and it’s hilarious watching adults do it, especially after they’ve come following a good session at the bar.
Dom Kerwick, who owns a local earthmoving business, brought in a water truck to wash everyone down after the race.
Dom was one of countless local volunteers who donated their time, expertise and equipment to make the Back to the Bush festival happen.
There were volunteers handing out free bottles of water and volunteers distributing a steady flow of drink tickets on what was quite a warm Saturday afternoon at Miles.
“How long have you been playing together?” That was the Caller‘s question to the four members of the local musical quartet who go by the name Crossroads.
“About 20 minutes,” quipped violinist Bryan Usher, as it was mid afternoon and the band was only about four songs into its performance. The actual answer was “a few years”.
Crossroads was set up on the verandah of the Union Hotel, one of several charming little heritage buildings which make up the Miles Historical Village.
As well as the hotel, there’s a post office, a bakery, a chemist – an entire streetscape of historical buildings filled with memorabilia, which makes visitors feel like they’re literally walking back in time.
Proud local Rose Asplin, who was at the festival with her husband Jack, said of the Miles Historical Village “It’s just lovely. It’s a great asset to our town”.
Of course there was all the things you’d expect to see at a community celebration.
There was face painting and a petting zoo for the kids, fairy floss and snow cone stalls, a variety of food vans and a well stocked bar.
Nathan “Wippy” Griggs and the Rooftop Express have toured their respective whip cracking and horse taming show right around the country and were a popular feature on this week’s lineup.
But there’s definitely something unique about Miles’s Back to the Bush festival.
Perhaps Cynthia Canard, visiting from Goombungee, summed it up when she asked “Where else do you get all that, plus a giant cockatoo, a koala and a kookaburra all in one place?”