MASSIVE CONTRIBUTION: The team behind the Airlie Beach Festival of Music.
MASSIVE CONTRIBUTION: The team behind the Airlie Beach Festival of Music.

Organisers just like a real family

THEY say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a national community to put on the Festival of Music in Airlie Beach.

In the spirit of the Paul Kelly song it has also been the case that "from little things, big things grow”.

Six years ago the festival was one man's dream.

That man, Mackay publican and music promoter Gavin Butlin, shared his dream with Whitsunday musician Kieran McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy provided a listening ear and the relevant introductions, and so the Airlie Beach Festival of Music was born.

"Butto started off with an exercise book and a pen,” he recalled. "We're going to put it in a glass case one day; it was absolute chaos and if he'd lost that book it would have been curtains.

"You've got to hand it to him though - how he pulled that first one off is just mind-boggling, but he's a wonderful bloke and someone who instils confidence in people - they very quickly want to be part of what he's doing and support him.”

From a core committee of four, also including Annie Freeman and Sam Hayward, the inner circle grew to incorporate other key players and "the boss” Angela Rae.

True to the phrase that behind every good man is an even better woman, Ellie Hanlon became "Butto's rock” and the sense to his sensibility.

Then came the army of volunteers, not just in Airlie Beach, but located Australia-wide.

"We've got ambassadors from around the country running our national Passport to Airlie competition and there are volunteers from here and other regions who just turn up to help come festival time,” Mr Butlin said.

"Words can't explain how much all these people mean to me; it wouldn't happen without their support.

"It's a community project and one big festival family.”

The final members of that family are the teams at Tourism and Events Queensland and Tourism Whitsundays who back the event year after year.

"The key to any success no matter what the project is, is collaboration and partnership,” Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Tash Wheeler said.

"Over the last couple of years since strengthening our partnership with the Airlie Beach Festival of Music we have seen greater success with marketing efforts and greater results with visitation.

"When we all work together we get better outcomes, for the destination, the event and all involved.”


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