Against a backdrop of drought and bushfires across regional NSW, Tamworth is buzzing as the 48th rendition of its country music festival kicks off, according to organisers.
The 2020 festival will feature industry heavyweights like Kasey Chambers, Lee Kernaghan, Troy Cassar-Daley, the Wolfe Brothers, John Williamson, Paul Kelly and Cold Chisel.
With more than 700 artists and 300 registered buskers altogether, the 10-day country music spectacle is expected to engage some 300,000 people and inject $50 million into the region.
Despite the punishing summer of drought and bushfires in NSW, festival director Barry Harley says nothing can detract from the festival and its vital role in Tamworth.
"The whole city is frantic," he told AAP.
"What I look forward to is the ultimate success of being able to attract tens of thousands of people to what is the hottest damn place in Australia - to ignore the beaches and instead come and experience this wonderful festival of music and stimulate the town.
"I genuinely believe Tamworth wouldn't be the successful city it is if not for the country music festival."
Mr Harley, who has been continuously involved with the festival since he started out building the award sets in 1975, said beyond the household names there was also a rich collection of emerging talent for punters to enjoy.
This included the festival's 2019 Star Maker winner - a competition that helped launch the careers of Lee Kernaghan, Keith Urban, Beccy Cole and James Blundell - in Port Macquarie teen Blake O'Connor.
"But with so many artists engaged it's difficult to actually pick out the highlights, beyond simply saying that, whatever your taste in country music, it's bound to be there," Mr Harley said.
The festival runs from Friday until January 26.
Australian Associated Press