Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Ute Musters are a particularly Australian festival. They are often held in conjunction with local shows or country music festivals.  They are held in many towns around rural Australia and celebrate the iconic Australian vehicle, the ute (short for utility vehicle). The Deniliquin Ute Muster is the largest festival of this type in the world. The 14th Deni Ute Muster was held last weekend and, despite rainy conditions, attracted a crowd of 15,000 people. While the event focuses on the ute, having the Ute of the Year competition, Show 'n Shine, the National Circle Works Championships, the Holden Grunt Off and Ute barrel races, the event had everything. 

Ute enthusiasts can often be obsessive with their vehicles and add extras such as stickers, aerials, driving lights and bull bars. But many are also polished until they glow and the owners have them expertly painted and detailed. The Ute of the Year competition is for the best of the best and is a very prestigious award. Utes are judged on their body and paint work, interior trim, under carriage, tub condition, customisation and modification and their general presentation. This is a chance for owners to show their vehicle at its best and there are a number of different categories in which prizes are awarded.

Circle work in the main arena.
Maybe the best known part of the Deni Ute Muster is the National Circle Work competition. Deniliquin added this event in 2007 and it has become popular ever since. Drivers show their skills in completing circles, figure 8s and drifts around a dirt paddock. Heats are held in several places around the country and some competitors have driven long distances to participate. The drivers push their vehicle around the arena sending up a spray of smoke and mud. Some drivers smoked up their tyres drawing loud cheers from the crowd. A few burnt rubber until the tread disintegrated leaving chunks of rubber in the arena and a burning smell in the air. At least one ute had the tyre come away completely from the rim. 

A close finish in one of the Go to Wo races.
The utes also competed in races over a short distance where they had to stop within a specified distance from a marker. This allowed them to show how fast they could get off the mark without driving at excessive speeds. However one of the most exciting events was the ute barrel race. Utes raced each other around three markers and then across a finish line, similar to horse barrel races at a rodeo. To the delight of the Deniliquin crowd it was the smaller Datsun utes that were 'whipping' the larger, more favoured utes in this event.

However the weekend wasn't all about utes. There was an array of events with a country carnival flavour. The first I saw was the Duck Fashion parade. Yes, ducks were walking the cat walk in a variety of fashion outfits, including a bride and groom outfit. The more traditional were sheep dog displays, tractor pulling, whip cracking competitions, bull riding, wood chopping, swag throwing, wrestling and magic acts. There was also a fly over by the airforce aerobatic team and stunt motorcyclists jumping in the arena.

Lee Kernigan.
On the Saturday afternoon there were two large screens, one either side of the main stage so that football fans could watch the grand final of the Aussie Rules live from Melbourne. In the evenings the large crowd was entertained by an array of country music artists. These included, on the Friday night, John Williamson, the McClymonts, Amber Lawrence and Lee Kernaghan; and on the Saturday night Jasmine Rae, Joe Nichols, Morgan Evans and Kelly Clarkson.

There were also two world record attempts. The first was for the greatest number of legally registered utes gathered in a parade at one time. The record was set at the Deni Muster in 2010 when 10,152 gathered. However this year the number of people attending was a little less than expected and with only around 6,000 utes, so the record stayed unbroken. The second record was for the most number of people wearing blue singlets. The record was also set at the Deni Muster in 2010 and still stands at 3,500 people.

A small part of the camping grounds.
A large number of people camped around the grounds and the event was well organised. Rain did delay some of the events on the Friday morning and it was sometimes difficult to know what to watch as there was so much happening. Though events such as this may have a reputation of attracting 'yobbos' this certainly was not the case. The crowds were extremely well behaved, there were a lot of families there and the whole event seemed to be very professionally run. Certainly a festival worth attending.

A relaxing atmosphere.
Competitor in the tractor pull.

On the way to the 'blue singlet' record attempt.
Young competitor in the whip cracking competition.

Ute doing circle work.

More circle work stunts.

Smoking up the tyres.


  1. very Aussie - a bit of a change from elephants and lions - wonderful wrestling and bull riding photographs

  2. sounds fun.... Better buy a ute!!!