‘‘It was the best year we have had so far — artistically, musically and culturally.’’
That is Strawberry Fields Festival director Tara Benney’s summary of the ninth annual music and arts event, held on Lower River Rd at Tocumwal on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
There were 6500 people at the festival this year, hailing from most parts of Australia.
Ms Benney said the event far exceeded organisers’ expectations.
‘‘Seeing Yothu Yindi performing was definitely a highlight,’’ she said.
‘‘They had a great turn-out and were really moving; some people in the audience were crying.
‘‘It shows what’s great about the festival. We have diversity with activities and broad entertainment.
‘‘This year we really hit out stride with our community involvement, too.’’
Yothu Yindi was one of 80 performers to take to the stage in Tocumwal, along with Cobram-based DJ CC:Disco, also a crowd pleaser.
As well as immersing themselves in different styles of music, festival-goers enjoyed art installations, food trucks and camping, all while taking in the tranquil setting of the Murray River and its bush surroundings.
A community stall hosted by local youth provided bags of ice, toasties and peppermint tea for patrons, and raised more than $1200 for Finley High School’s Immersion Program.
There was also a jewellery stall run by Tocumwal residents.
While organisers and police praised the behaviour of festival-goers overall, police said the number of drug-related charges laid as part of the NSW and Victorian police’s Operation Strawberry Fields was still a concern.
Deniliquin Police Command Inspector Jy Brown said NSW Police drug detection dogs, used as part of the cross-border operation, made 80 positive drug indications.
He said 58 people were charged with driving under the influence of illicit drugs, compared to 31 last year.
NSW police made 102 arrests in total and laid 65 charges, Insp Brown said.
On the Victorian side of the border, Cobram-based Senior Sergeant Darren Wittingslow said Victorian police recorded 52 positive drug-driving tests from 842 tests conducted.
Sen Sgt Wittingslow said none of the 2471 people tested for drink-driving in Victoria during the four days of the operation tested positive.
— Southern Riverina News