The town of Cobar in central New South Wales will be hosting the Grey Mardi Gras for the second year running in April. Don’t let the 'grey' in the name deceive you, this is a very colourful festival, with a 'dancing in the streets' vibe!
Cobar named the event as a bit of a cheeky reference to the Grey Nomads they hope to attract to their town, and last year it certainly worked. More than 900 visitors streamed through the gates for the 'Gig on the Grass' main event, the climax of the whole Mardi Gras. Caravanners from all over Australia made Cobar a stopover, or the main destination of their trips, in order to catch the festival, and this year the people of Cobar hope to see even larger crowds. And no wonder, as Cobar is a town that has made an active effort to be caravan friendly, with a well-equipped caravan park, free dump point and plenty to see and do even outside festival season.
The Grey Mardi Gras celebrates the best of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, bringing back the music, fashion and food of iconic periods in many of our lives.
This year’s Grey Mardi Gras will run from 3–6 April. Festivities will kick off on Friday with rockabilly dance lessons at the Cobar Bowling and Golf Club. Pick up some new skills or polish some old ones there, and then head to the “Stomp, Jive and Bump” dance and buffet dinner at Cobar Memorial Services and Bowling Club. There will be live entertainment throughout the night, photobooths and fashion prizes — so start planning your best retro outfit — a dance competition and a two-course meal included in your cost of entry.
On Saturday a street parade will bring the sleepy town’s main drag to life. There will be vintage cars on display, retro themed floats, street walkers and dancers, as well as buskers, live music, markets and a Show & Shine car expo. Anyone nurturing a bit of nostalgia for the music, styles and culture of the 50s–70s will be delighted.
Later that day the festival’s main event, the Gig on the Grass, will kick off at the Tom Knight Memorial Oval. Tickets are $20 per person, with discounts for seniors, pensioners or family groups. There will be six hours of live music from the 50s, 60s and 70s, with everything from Johnny Cash and Elvis impersonators to local band Ballz and All and all girl trio band Amitie. There will be activities and entertainment for the little ones, and bar facilities for the big ones.
On Sunday the dancing will continue, in the streets and elsewhere. There will be yet more live music, as well as retro-themed trivia, Bingo, golf and bowls.
Finally, on Monday there will be a free entry day at the Great Cobar Heritage Centre and a 60s themed Cobar bus tour
Once the Grey Mardi Gras is over, there’s still plenty to see and do in and around Cobar. This old mining town is soaked in history, from thousands of years of Aboriginal heritage, to its period as a booming colonial-era mining town through to the modern day. You can take it all in at the Great Cobar Heritage Centre. Cobar was Australia’s leading producer of copper in 1911, as well as producing gold and silver. You can see the wealth that flowed through the town in the beautiful rambling building the Heritage Centre is set in, which began life as the admin centre for the mines. Today it’s the perfect place to take in the history of colonial and turn of the century New South Wales, as well as social, Indigenous and farming history of the region.
Across from the centre is the Cobar Miners Heritage Park. This park was opened in 2002 as a tribute to miners who have lost their lives throughout the town’s history. You can view sculptures and restored historical equipment, including a 15-metre tall poppet-head from the New Cobar Mine, a restored stamper batter from the Count Boppy Mine, a loader from the CSA Mine and the headframe and winder from the Old Chesney Mine.
If you’re looking for a glass of wine or a frosty cold beer, we can recommend Cobar’s Great Western Hotel, home of Australia’s longest verandah. Built in 1898, this heritage-listed pub boasts a hearty menu of classic Aussie pub meals. Where better to watch the Grey Mardi Gras parades and street performances from than from the shade of their iron lace verandah, reputed to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere?
While you’re checking out the town’s hotels, you should also drop in at the Grand Hotel. Take a moment to get your picture taken with 'the Big Beer Can' above the entrance. As part of Australia’s ongoing love of 'big things', the Big Beer Can was built in 1990. At five metres tall and two-and-a-half across, it immediately took out the Guinness world record for the largest beer can in the world. If you like to make a point to get a happy snap with our big brown land’s oversized monuments to Australiana as you motorhome across the country, this one is not to be missed!
Out of town, you can take the sealed road to Fort Bourke lookout, 300m above sea level. From there you can see all of Cobar and its surrounding landscape of red earth scattered with greenery. The rich Cobar mineral belt is clearly visible, and you can gaze down into the dizzyingly large open cut gold mine. The view from the Fort Bourke Lookout is particularly stunning at sunset. Just check in with Cobar Heritage Centre on (02) 6836 2448, or face to face while visiting the museum, before heading up as access to the lookout can occasionally be restricted.
Whether you’re heading into Australia’s red centre on a pilgrimage to the sun-beaten outback or heading north as part of your annual great migration, Cobar is a beautiful town to stop for a night or three. With upwards of a thousand RV travellers expected for this year’s Grey Mardi Gras, and so much to see and do, April this year is the perfect time to stop in and sample the sights, sounds, history and colour.
Cobar sits at the crossroads of the Barrier Highway and Kidman Way, in central NSW. Whether you’re headed there specifically for the Grey Mardi Gras or stopping over as part of a trip into or out of the outback, these major roads make the town easy to reach from the north, south, east or west.
WHERE TO STAY
Local RV facilities include Cobar Caravan Park, which has powered slab and grass sites from $38 a night, as well as plus-size sites for larger motorhomes. Contact Cobar Caravan Park on (02) 6836 2425 or at cobarcaravanpark.com.au for more details.
During the festival sites will also be available for RVs on the Ward Oval, Cobar, for $60 for three nights, $80 for four nights or $100 for five nights, unpowered. Power is available for $30 extra per outlet. Camping spots can be paid for through the same ticketing site where entry to the Gig on the Grass and Dinner Dance are bought: https://www.123tix.com.au/events/7403/cobar-grey-mardi-gras-2020
To buy tickets for the two major events at the Grey Mardi Gras, the Friday night Stomp, Jive and Bump Dinner Dance and the Saturday night Gig on the Grass, go here: https://www.123tix.com.au/events/7403/cobar-grey-mardi-gras-2020
For the rest of the long weekend’s events, simply turn up!