Saturday, October 21, 2006

Uralla - Thunderbolt Country Fair & Talent Quest 11 November

Photo: Captain Thunderbolt

I have very fond memories of Uralla built up over many years.

Great grandfather Goode free selected land at Arding to the west of Uralla near the Rocky River gold fields and was one of those who signed the document congratulating Constable Walker on shooting the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt (Fred Ward) in Kentucky Creek to the south of the town.

When grandfather David Drummond came to Armidale as a farm labourer he met and married Pearl Goode. There is a story - probably apocryphal - that the entry in John Goode's diary for the day read: "This morning dug spuds. This afternoon Dave and Pearl were married. This evening dug spuds".

As children we were often taken on drives to Uralla and around the Arding lanes, collected fruit from the orchards, climbed all over Thunderbolt's rock to the south of the town. We went to the Uralla show. Later Aunt Kay was active in the Uralla Pottery Club so I always went to the opening of their annual exhibition.

These memories came flooding back when I learned that this year's Thunderbolt Country Fair and Talent Quest will be held on Saturday 11 November. As a child I thought that Thunderbolt was uniquely Uralla. I now know that he roamed widely across New England, but certainly he occupies a special place in the Uralla and Armidale districts.

Cecil Holmes 1953 film Captain Thunderbolt was shot in and around Armidale and Uralla with a cast including Grant Taylor and Bud Tingwell (and here for Bud's web site including his new blog). The locals were fascinated and lined up to take part as extras. Grandfather Drummond provided Thunderbolt's horse, dad became foreman of the jury, while two aunts were in the coach that Thunderbolt held up. We all trooped off to the world premier held at the Capitol Theatre in Armidale.

Because this year's Fair coincides with Remembrance Day, an RSL Parade in Memory of the Fallen will take place at 11am.

Then the Thunderbolt Country Fair Parade starts at 12.30pm (I have always enjoyed this parade), followed by market stalls, a Rotary Club barbecue, entertainment and talent quest. Performers under the age of 21 will compete for the major prize of a day's recording at Keystone Recording Studios in Armidale, valued at $1200. The talent quest will run from 1pm to 5pm.

For children, there is face painting, horse and carriage rides and a jumping castle. Kids and brave adults can try out the mechanical bull for a wild ride.

First prize in the raffle is a fantastic 30 minute helicopter tour of the scenic gorges with Fleet Helicopters.

Fireworks will fill the skies at around 8.30pm, then the bands will battle it out for supremacy at the Top Pub for $1,500 in prize money.

While in Uralla take some time to browse around the stores and galleries and to visit attractions such as Hassetts Military Museum or McCrossin's Mill, one of the best small museums in Australia with its Thunderbolt collection as well as its fascinating Chinese collection. The Chinese played a significant role in New England's mining rushes.


The Thunderbolt Country Fair is on at Alma Park, Uralla. Uralla is on the junction of the New England Highway and Thunderbolt's Way and is a 20 minute drive from Armidale; a five hour drive from Newcastle; six hours from Sydney; six hours from Brisbane; and three from Port Macquarie.

For more information on the Thunderbolt Country Fair and Talent Quest, accommodation and other attractions in the region, please phone the Uralla Visitor Information Centre: (02) 6778 4496 or email:

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