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Winter Electorate Tour

Friday, July 20, 2012

Floods impact both individuals and communities, having large social, economic, and environmental consequences. That's why I was pleased to travel down south this week to present the community of Cookamidgera near Parkes with a $16,500 cheque from Premier Barry O'Farrell for much needed flood mitigation works. The small yet vibrant community of Cookamidgera has suffered from the intangible cost of flooding over subsequent years. Shortly after the election, the difficulty encountered by the Cookamidgera community over obtaining funds to carry out necessary remedial work was brought to my attention. I have been working behind the scenes since then to try and secure the funding required. Having direct contact to Ministers was a vital factor in being able to access funds for the community. The best part about being in Government is the opportunity to deliver outcomes like this which would not normally be possible. I commend Premier O'Farrell for his interest in the Cookamidgera community.

I'm delighted to see that this part of the electorate has received some long overdue recognition and deserved attention recently. Parkes has had a successful Elvis Festival for some years now and it's pleasing to see that the enthusiasm has caught on elsewhere with Trundle hosting its first ABBA festival. Participants brought with them not only the ABBA inspired costumes but entered into the spirit of the occasion giving fresh voice to the rich catalogue of music by Agnetha Faltskog, Benny Anderson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. I look forward to seeing this become a regular fixture on the Trundle social calendar. I was also pleased to announce recently CountryLink will bring forward its 'Elvis Express' service, due to the overwhelming popular demand, for next year’s CountryLink Parkes Elvis Festival. The ‘Elvis Express’ will now leave a day earlier from Sydney’s Central Station on Thursday, 10 January 2013 rather than the traditional Friday departure date following feedback from festival organisers and Elvis fans. The extra day will give visitors to Parkes the chance to take advantage of more of the Festival’s activities, such as free main stage entertainment and the Miss Priscilla Dinner.

Last week I hosted a visit by the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Member for Lismore Thomas George MP. Mr George was in Dubbo to tour our new office in Dubbo on behalf of the Parliament to ensure that the new facilities met with community expectations given that the reason for seeking new premises was to provide adequate space in which to conduct constituent business in a more conducive environment. Thomas was able to report to the Parliament that the local contractors used in the office fit out had done an excellent job in completing the assignment whilst generating work for local tradespeople. All electorate offices and staff are provided by the Parliament in order to assist elected members serve their electorates effectively.

I took a trip to the Mudgee Field Days to represent the Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson to launch the “The Rural Living Handbook”. The handbook is a joint initiative by the Central West CMA, Bathurst, Dubbo and Orange Council Sustainability Alliance. It provides new landholders and long-term residents with information to ensure the health of the catchment and all the things they value in it by increasing awareness of landholders responsibilities; such as buying a property and moving out of town, managing natural resources, managing their property, and who landholders can get in touch with for help in making the most out of their life on the land.

Hunks Hunka Burning Love- Parkes Elvis Festival

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The memory of the hip swivelling, pelvis gyrating, pop culture icon of his day whose awe inspiring journey from an impoverished upbringing in Memphis to the man who would go on to be referred to ever after as "The King of Rock and Roll" is honoured each year when the township of Parkes throws open its doors to the world and welcomes fans of Elvis Presley to celebrate the life and music of this most remarkable man.  

Parkes almost doubles in size overnight during the Elvis Festival as it plays host to literally thousands of die hard Elvis fans from around the globe who make the journey to take part in the celebration of the tremendously exciting if somewhat tumultuous short life of the King.   Parkes is a place that previously had no connection whatsoever to the man from Memphis, Tennesee. Yet it has earned its claim to fame among Elvis aficionados by successfully staging twenty Elvis Festivals. 

Being a huge fan of Elvis myself and his brand of popular music that defined a generation, I felt honoured to take part in the celebrations this year.  Drawing 18,000 visitors, taking part in some 150 events, the Festival delivers a welcome injection of $9 million into the local economy.  It attracted 80 volunteers who dedicated over 700 hours of work over the five days of the Festival to ensure it went smoothly.

If you can visualise an Elvis impersonator on every street corner and a large parade through town, throw in a Gospel church service not to mention a series of Elvis tribute concerts, then add over 400 excited fans making the trek from Sydney on the Countrylink Elvis Express, you can certainly imagine that Parkes was well and truly "All Shook Up".

Local businesses reported record trade this year whilst most of the accommodation available had been booked out months in advance of the event.  An additional 70 powered sites were made available at the showground while camping sites were stretched to capacity.  Some generous local residents went even further and offered 1776 beds in their homes to visitors.  What better indication can there be than that of the wonderful sense of community this Festival engenders among the good people of Parkes.

Beginning way back in 1993, the Elvis Festival has blossomed over the years and in the process has created its very own legacy with the enthusiastic support of fans and local residents.  Parkes has its own special brand of die hard Elvis fans that go to extraordinary lengths to pay homage to the King. One local has changed his name by deed poll in honour of the man.  Another local couple for many years ran the Graceland Restaurant in town. 

The concept of the Festival was first conceived by passionate community members who recognised its potential as a regular fun event on the Parkes social calendar.  January was identified as the ideal time to stage it, given the traditional lull in tourism that month and most importantly it happily coincided with Elvis Presley's birthday falling on the 8th.

What has impressed me more than anything else about the Festival is the way it has imbued the local population with an infectious enthusiasm that that has manifested itself in a burning desire to see the town prosper.  It is more than a Festival to these people, the concept is warmly embraced by the entire community leading to an atmosphere around that time of year that is difficult to capture.  It really has to be experienced firsthand to truly understand and appreciate it.

So I'm issuing an invitation on behalf of the people of Parkes.  If you consider yourself to be a fan and think you know all there is to know about the King, and even if you are not and are perhaps curious enough to try and understand the public's undiminished fascination with the man then I urge you to mark the date in your calendar and make the trip next January to see for yourself why the legacy of Elvis Presley is alive and well in the central west of New South Wales.                          

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