Iconic regional event Bush Christmas is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The brainchild of three friends from western Queensland, Pilton’s Liz McClymont is the only remaining face behind the popular gallery style exhibition of country artisans. Liz has seen the event grow in popularity and stature over the past two decades, and is excited to be attracting new exhibitors again this year.
Liz is just as enthusiastic about this year’s Bush Christmas as she has been every time she assembles the talented rural craftspeople, artists and gourmet producers from across Australia for the annual event. Proceeds from opening night of this year’s event, being held from December 2 to 11, will go to Tie Up The Black Dog charity assisting depression. The event has supported several charities over the years, including Blue Care, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Aussie Helpers. “We have been helping the Isolated Children’s Parents Association (ICPA) for the past 10 years with a raffle which raises about $12,000 each year, as it is a charity dear to my heart,” Liz said.
Life for Liz is always busy. She also does office work for their own properties, Ravensthorpe at Pilton, and a 12,000 hectare sheep and cattle property at Bollon. As Bush Christmas approaches, the pace becomes frenetic.
Last year, Liz and her band of volunteer workers prepared 180 hampers prior to the Bush Christmas opening, and in the past have packed up to 990 corporate hampers. “Each year we do hampers. I submit a list of what’s available in the hampers and businesses pick out what they want,” Liz said.
Liz said Bush Christmas was a way for country craftspeople to gain more exposure for their talents. “I was involved in a craft shop in Cunnamulla, and that’s where the idea was born,” Liz said. “We decided on Toowoomba as the venue for the exhibition, as there is a huge population of retired country people in the city, and they have the contacts with the bush. The only other place I would contemplate having it would be in Buderim, for that same reason.”
The first five-day Bush Christmas was beside Weis restaurant with just 17 exhibitors. Toowoomba Antiques Gallery, Repertory Theatre, and Downs Club have also been venues. This year, Masonic Centre next to the Empire Theatre, will host the event featuring more than 100 stallholders from rural and remote Australian towns including Julia Creek, Bourke, Cunnamulla and Mt Isa, as well as from Victoria, Western and South Australia. “All those people don’t come in for the event, as the expense would be too great. They send their products in for us to sell for them. We set up the displays and decorate the venue,” she said. “I love the contact with great people and I’ve always loved that handmade article,” she said.
Words by Linda Mantova | Images supplied by Linda Mantova