AFTER years of languishing in a cultural and entertainment desert it looks like Albury-Wodonga has finally become a bit of an oasis.
Just concentrating on Albury at this stage, the city on the northern banks of the Murray River has certainly burst into the regional Australian spotlight over the past couple of years.
Sport — frequently sneered at by the local artistic community — has always played its part, especially basketball and football and especially with their hosting of major tournaments and finals.
And now the Albury Gold Cup has become the biggest thing going around since they started feeding horses sliced bread and the annual 20,000-plus crowd has an enormous impact on the local economy.
Albury also has The Beatles Festival, which was held for the fourth time on the weekend.
There is still a bit of tweaking to do but this thing could end up bigger than a walrus and cause a revolution that will have people from all over the place taking the long and winding road to Albury.
On top of that we had a major AFL football fixture just down the road at Wangaratta and A Day on the Green at Rutherglen.
I don’t know about the Wangaratta game but there were heaps of people from Albury who headed to Rutherglen.
And I met people from well outside Albury-Wodonga who went to both The Beatles Festival and A Day on the Green.
Now on top of that we have all the other wonderful festivals in the satellite towns around Albury-Wodonga and this Friday, Saturday and Sunday Wodonga is hosting its enormously successful Carnivale festival.
These events will continue to grow if the retail and tourism sectors get right behind them.
This is especially so when you consider that the accepted wisdom is tourism is a lot about “return” visitors.
So while you’ve got them here make the best of it by offering all sorts of discounts and unusual memorabilia and advertising or letting your visitors know that there is another spectacular event coming up they shouldn’t miss.
In the end it’s all about paying your way.
And this is where the art gallery and arts on the Border, could run into trouble.
I have always thought a city that provides for all aspects of cultural expression is a mature city and I have often dreamt of Albury being a clean, green, university city and a centre of learning and culture.
And an art gallery fits very well into that scenario.
However, at a cost of at least $6 million the new art gallery will need to pay its own way and start doing that quickly.
As someone who gets around the city a bit and is a member of a range of organisations, I estimate no more than about 30 per cent of Albury-Wodonga’s population will visit the gallery.
We have been told that some of the funds for the project will come from private contributions and the gallery will be a boon for the region, drawing visitors and tourists from a wide area.
Well it had better, because there is a lot of discontent in the community about how much is being spent.
Although those people who are grumbling do not seem to have taken into consideration that if the gallery does not go ahead the considerable amount put in by the federal government will be lost, possibly forever.
Unfortunately there were comments made by supporters of the gallery that came across as being arrogant.
Those supporters would do well in the future to realise where their bread and butter comes from.
Hopefully the art gallery development will be a magnificent asset for the city.
If it does not, then look out for the backlash against other arts facilities in the area and a consequent loss of support, including the financial kind.