Country on Keppel bucks COVID cancellation trend – hailed major success

The second annual Country on Keppel, held November 13-15, 2020, was hailed a major success after doubling the 2019 patronage, in a year marred by festival cancellations.

Country music floated on the Capricorn Coast breeze as Country on Keppel kicked off on Friday, November 13 – one of Australia’s first music festivals following the COVID-19 shutdown of the music industry.

Country on Keppel featured an all-Queensland line-up starring James Blundell and Matt Cornell, with Caitlyn Shadbolt, Brad Butcher, SaltbushSIx, Jade Holland, Tony Cook, Anna Farquhar, and Louise James FX.

Great Keppel Island Hideaway hosted the festival in July 2019, but this year’s festival was postponed to November due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings. However, Country on Keppel is slated to return to July 16-18 in 2021.

Festival organiser Peter Blundell hailed the 2020 festival a “major success” against all odds.

“Although there was a lot of uncertainty this year due to COVID-19 restrictions and border closures, the 2020 Country on Keppel festival doubled its numbers from last year, with just over 400 music fans joining us at Great Keppel Island Hideaway,” he said.

“There aren’t a lot of other country festivals held on an island and the relaxed atmosphere of the festival means fans have access to the artists and everyone is here to mingle and have a fun weekend.

“Country on Keppel 2020 also demonstrated that festivals can proceed, with COVID-safe regulations in place.”

The artists enjoyed the chilled atmosphere that the island festival served up.

“Country on Keppel was such an amazing experience – one the most laidback and enjoyable festivals I’ve ever done,” Matt Cornell said.

The inaugural Green Brothers Country on Keppel Talent Search opened proceedings on Friday night, with Matthew Munro, Keely Sliwka, Bella Mackenzie, Rae Leigh, and Mitch Rolfe vying for the title.

Mackay singer-songwriter Bella Mackenzie, who is 15 years old, took home a new Takamine guitar and road case and opened Saturday’s festival line-up, as the winner.

The judging panel of award-winning and chart-topping artists James Blundell and Matt Cornell with country music journalist and publicist Bec Gracie, had the tough job of narrowing the strong field down to just one winner.

Bella, who hails from Mackay, said it was exciting performing in front of judges of the calibre of James Blundell and Matt Cornell, and was over the moon to be named the inaugural winner.

“Seeing all the people who just love country music like me, it was really cool to play to them,” she said.

“Country on Keppel is such a chilled vibe. All the artists are really supportive of each other. The festival is the best of both worlds with country and the beach.

“If anyone was thinking of coming to the festival or doing the talent quest, definitely do it – it opens up so many opportunities and it’s lots of fun to get to know the other people in the industry and learn from them as they perform.”

Bella, who released her debut single, Dance In The Rain, this year is recording new music and plans to release more songs next year.

Organisers are now confirming the line-up for July 2021 with another stellar procession of country stars guaranteed, and entries will open in the next few months for the talent search.

For information on tickets for 2021, call (07) 4939 2050 or visit: greatkeppelislandhideaway.com.au/country-on-keppel/

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