Colbinabbin, population 304 at the last Census, is a farming community that is perhaps most well-known in central Victoria for the prowess of its sporting teams.
But there are efforts afoot to put Colbo on the map for other reasons: cultural events and attractions are in the works, in a bid to attract visitors to the central Victorian village.
Next weekend, the town’s 110-year-old pub, the Colbinabbin Country Hotel, will host what is being called a “music day-nighter”, a one-day music event that will see bands from across the state and as far afield as Western Australia play.
“When I took over management of the Colbinabbin Country Hotel six months ago, I figured we needed to become known for something special: an event that would attract people to our little town and hotel, and in my experience that needs to be music, food, drinks and a family atmosphere,” manager Julie Price said.
“There’s a whole demographic of people who travel to other places for big festivals, so I thought why not bring something special to Colbo that everyone can enjoy?”
The family-friendly event will run from 2pm until 10pm on Saturday, with Victoria’s Sal Kimber and The Rollin’ Wheel to headline.
The line-up will also feature Melbourne-based James Kenyon, The Little Lord Street Band from Perth, and Melbourne’s Rosie Burgess.
“The Colbinabbin Country Hotel hopes that this will be an annual event, something to look forward to after the footy season, before cricket starts and the farmers get busy with harvest – there’s only a small window of opportunity,” Ms Price said.
One of the features of the inaugural event will be a truck known as Henrietta, which will serve as the stage for the day.
Henrietta belongs to Corop winery Kennedy Wines, whose owners John and Pat Kennedy agreed to lend her for the event.
The 1971 Leyland tray truck is now being made over for her star performance as the stage.
Artistic plan to draw in visitors
The festival is not the only idea to attract visitors to Colbinabbin in the works.
A push to have Colbinabbin join the several other towns boasting giant artworks on their silos recently received a massive boost, winning a $112,500 grant through the state government’s Pick My Project grants initiative.
The idea certainly captured the attention of the community: it tallied up more votes than any other nominated project in the Loddon Campaspe region.
Sadie Vale, the resident behind the project, said it was hoped the artwork would bring tourism to the town, and subsequently, an economic boost for local businesses.
“We feel we’ve got a bit of an untouched patch in Colbo,” Ms Vale said.
The town was close to wineries, she said, and Rushworth, with the tourism it draws from Waranga Basin and the like.
Silo art has reportedly been a boost in other towns, with travellers going out of their way to see the impressive murals.
VicFeeds and the Colbinabbin Country Hotel are also behind the initiative.
Ms Vale said the planning for the silo art was in the early stages.
They would research prospective artists, she said, as well as the history of the silos, and talk to those behind other silo art projects about their experiences.
Ms Vale said they also wanted to hear the community’s ideas on what the finished product would be.
“There are exciting things happening,” she said.
A small town’s potential
It may be small, but both Ms Price and Ms Vale believe in Colbinabbin’s ability to attract visitors.
Ms Vale said availability of accommodation could prove an issue, but if that were looked at, the town would be able to bring more people in for events.
“It’ll be challenging for sure, but there’s potential,” she said.
Bendigo was not far away, she said, and Heathcote was “booming”.
The town had a unique character that was not seen when simply driving through, Ms Vale said: the people were friendly and very welcoming, there were places to eat and drink, and natural attractions, such as the range along the top of the hill, were “beautiful”.
She acknowledged the contribution of the football netball club, which attracted visitors and their families to the town, as well as wineries and other small businesses playing a part.
Ms Price agrees the town has its own unique qualities.
“Colbo, like most little towns of its size seems to have its own personality, its own soul,” she said.
“And that's largely because of the people who live here - generations of the same families, carrying on the family farm, (but doing it their way with much more diversity), building their own family businesses, experiencing floods, droughts, loss, but being resilient enough to keep trying.
“In my experience, people are proud of the fact that they come from Colbo which shows they care about their town, and each other.”
Ms Price also heralds the town’s physical environment: its wines, the “giant peppermint crisp” its crops and dark soil form on the ground at certain times of year, the range, and built landmarks like its pub and silos.
She believes the town has potential to become known for his cultural offerings too, saying that being small does not mean it has nothing to offer.
Ms Price even hints that a Colbo Pub Choir could hit the stage in the future.
“Colbinabbin people have to travel to bigger regional areas to experience what others take for granted,” Ms Price said.
“Now it's others' turn to travel to us…There are many people in this town who have talents, and it's time they were unleashed, and for Colbo to be in the spotlight.”