Golden Guitar finalist Hayley Jensen entertained the crowd as the sun went down at the Whittlesea Country Music Festival on Saturday. ​

By Max Davies

THE Whittlesea Country Music Festival returned for its 24th iteration at the weekend with large crowds in attendance to enjoy favourite country classics and original music.

Despite the warm weather and harsh sun, the star-studded lineup of artists meant visitors were often up and dancing.

Andrew Swift takes to the Whittlesea stage.

Festival organiser Tony Holding said the event was ‘extremely successful’.

“We had a very good crowd, great turn-out, artists were fantastic, sound crew were great, and there were plenty of families there with lots of young kids,” he said.

“It’s promoted as a family affair and that’s exactly what we get, and because it’s all finished by 10pm it allows them to go home and get to bed on time.”

The lineup for the Saturday twilight concert was opened by The Voice superstar and Whittlesea resident Shanae Watson, followed by Cush Ryder, Golden Guitar finalist Hayley Jensen, Andrew Swift, and Australian music legend Ross Wilson.

Whittlesea Scouts were on hand on Saturday to help clean up rubbish and keep the festival running smoothly. ​

Mr Wilson was the headline act on the evening and was making his second appearance at the festival – making a strong impression as he drew crowds and got people dancing.

“The crowd was rocking, Ross really gets them up and dancing because his songs are timeless,” Mr Holding said.

“When he was up and singing all those beautiful songs, the crowd really rocked and it was great. We had a good weekend and put Whittlesea back on the map.”

Festivalgoers came out in large numbers to enjoy a star-studded line-up of well-known country music artists. ​

Mr Holding said the event was a chance for people to get out and enjoy live music for free.

“The cost-of-living is biting people, so free events are becoming more and more popular,” he said.

“We need to give back to the community, so we do that by providing a free music event.

“Ross Wilson has 19 gigs this month and the other events charge like a wounded bull, but we provide it for free.

“Because our event is free, we pull that crowd, so crowd numbers were up I’d say.”

The festival was supported by a preliminary event on Friday night at Whittlesea Bowls Club, alongside a cruise night on the same evening that featured the ‘biggest turnout of cars ever’ according to Mr Holding.

To keep up to date with the festival, visit www.facebook.com/WhittleseaCountryMusicFestival.

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