On the 2nd of October 2015, a proud part of Australian history came to a close. The very last iconic Aussie built ute was unveiled - the 2016 VF Series 2 Holden ute. Considering the long and esteemed career the Holden ute has performed, it was only appropriate that we saw the curtain unfold at the famous Deni Ute Muster in Deniliquin, NSW.
Deni is known as the ute capital of the world after breaking a Guiness World Record for the most amount of utes in one place. This happened at the inaugural Deni Ute Muster in 1999, where it was instigated to bring more tourism into the drought affected town of 8000. It worked. Every year the event keeps growing, breaking more records - more recently, the most amount of blue singlets!
The Deni Ute Muster is located about 4 hours from Melbourne and 7 hours from Sydney, and takes place in, to put it simply, a large paddock. It attracts 'musterers' from around Australia every NSW Labour Day long weekend. It has a very laid-back country feel to it, where everybody is either wearing a cowboy hat, boots, thongs, or a blue Deni Ute Muster singlet. Over the 2 days, most people have a few drinks around their campsite and catch up with mates, with some attendees only ever seeing each other at the Muster. Tents or swags is the typical camp setup, with a choice of the Family Paddock or the The Paddock. If you want late nights and loud music, the latter is the place to be. You are considered a true “Musterer” if you have spent at least one festival there.
There are market stalls where you can stock up on Muster merchandise, crafty items, and clothing. You will never be short of a bite to eat, with over a dozen food stalls, ranging from wraps to pizzas, and juices to thickshakes. The kids get looked after also, with a sideshow and showbags.
The music never stops throughout the event. There's a day stage, where small acts play, a secondary stage, and then the main stage where the big acts play. This year saw Birds of Tokyo, Lee Kernaghan, Adam Brand, Morgan Evans and Cold Chisel, to name just a few. It's the second time Chisel have been here, and the crowd adores them. Prior to their set on Friday night to unveil their new album, I spent a little time chatting with Ian Moss. Sporting an Akubra, he had certainly slipped into the laid-back feel of the festival, being very casual and easy to chat with. We sat on the couch in front of a very welcome air-conditioner, and we talked about cars as a couple blokes at the pub would. Even though his main interest is planes, it turns out Mossy is a bit of a Holden fan, stating that an EH was one of his first cars. He wryly said that his car of choice for long road trips was the HSV Senator. Nice.
But the main attraction is the utes. There was an impressive line up at the show and shine. Owners have spent endless amounts of money modifying their pride and joy, with flags, aerials, massive bull bars, subwoofers and spotlights. Like someone who collects mementoes on their travels, the more stickers your ute wears, the more stories it has to tell. From a ute with a skeleton in the back, to one that looks like the Batmobile, no ute is the same. There was even a category for the loudest exhaust. Things get dusty in the circle work paddock, but the dusty layer you wear is a badge of honour.
This was my third Deni Ute Muster, and it keeps getting bigger with each year. If you're from the city, it can be a bit of a shock the first time. It feels like you're in the middle of a dust bowl, but once you walk around, there's plenty to see and do. It is guaranteed to be hot, so sunscreen is a must, and LOTS of water.
A lot of sunburn and dust later (why I wore white pants, I'll never know), my time at the 2015 Deni Ute Muster was over. If you have a passion for utes, experiencing the country and having an absolute ball with friendly people, put it in the diary for next year!