The Peter Allen Festival in the northern NSW town of Tenterfield has continued with its program of events, despite bushfires impacting the town over the past 24 hours.
The festival in the New England region township, population 4000, had its official opening last night, despite yesterday’s bushfire which started near the town’s cemetery and burnt down several homes in the town’s south.
The fire, which seriously injured a volunteer firefighter, reached within 500 metres of the town centre and cut power to much of Tenterfield yesterday afternoon, reported the Tenterfield Star.
It forced the closure of both the New England Highway south of town, and the Bruxner Highway to the east, isolating Tenterfield from both directions for a number of hours, delaying performers and members of the public from reaching the festival.
However, the official opening at the Tenterfield Theatre went ahead last night, with performers Michael Griffiths and Amelia Ryan staging their Peter Allen/Olivia Newtown-John tribute show Livvy and Pete as planned.
Power had been restored to the theatre just one hour beforehand, and the performers reportedly had their bags packed in their cars, ready to evacuate at short notice.
This morning, Griffiths posted about the experience on his Facebook account.
“A scary day but show went ahead. Skies are clear today and festival is back in full swing. Such a pretty town rolling with the punches of a two year drought,” wrote Griffiths.
The Peter Allen Festival has issued a statement advising visitors that events – which continue today and tomorrow – were continuing as normal, but urged them to stay alert.
“We are watching conditions closely with council and emergency services, and will update if anything changes,” said the statement posted to social media.
“We encourage all visitors to monitor conditions and road closures and allow extra time to get to the event.”
Visitors are also urged to adhere to the town’s water restrictions, with the region in drought, and Tenterfield’s dam level at just 33 per cent capacity.
The annual Peter Allen Festival, which commenced last year, celebrates the life and work of the late Peter Allen, one of Australia’s best-known LGBT entertainers.
Allen, who was born in Tenterfield, was known for his flamboyant persona and lavish costumes, and was behind such hits as I Go To Rio, The More I See You, I Still Call Australia Home and Not The Boy Next Door.
In 1972, he immortalised his hometown in the song Tenterfield Saddler, which tells the story of his life, including his troubled relationship with his father, his move to New York City and his marriage to Liza Minnelli.
The song has since been released by a range of artists including Olivia Newtown-John, Hugh Jackman, John Farnham, Colleen Hewett and Rick Price, and has been performed numerous times in concert by Bette Midler.
Allen died of AIDS-related complications in June 1992.
The Peter Allen Festival concludes tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, 8 September) with Peter Allen on the Big Screen showing at the Tenterfield Theatre from 2pm to 3.30pm.