MEGA-GALLERY: Click here for photos of all the fun from the Deni Ute Muster.
I’VE never actually been in a ute.
Look, as a city girl, it’s not the most convenient to negotiate peak-hour traffic in — plus, you know, it doesn’t really go with my latte either.
So clearly, I was the best choice to cover the Deni Ute Muster on its 15th anniversary where, as it would turn out, there’d be a record-breaking 9736 of the things.
Delightful, I thought, it’ll be just like a country picnic — right? Apparently not.
The advice came thick and fast: Leave the short shorts at home. Wear sensible shoes. Definitely wear your engagement ring.
Then there’s the blueys
I walked through the gates prepared for a cesspool of drinking and debauchery, a flannie-covered nightmare of blue singlets and cowboy boots.
What I got was ... families enjoying the sun, larrikins having a cheeky laugh and every second person wanting to be my new best friend.
Hardly the disaster I’d been led to believe ... what was going on? Did they all grow two heads after sundown or something?
Sure there’s booze, says Liz Mecham — who, as a member of the first ute muster committee, has been at all 15 events — but that’s not all it’s about.
“It’s always had a pattern of having families, but then there was a bit of a reputaion of it being really blokey,” she explains, a toddler clinging to her legs.
“Now it’s really good to see the mix of young people having fun and the families.
“It’s always a really good crowd, really matey ... a lot of city people don’t understand how it is you can have so many people here without any aggro.”
True, with 20,000 people attending, it’s surprising there are so few incidences.
We head to the ute camping ground to investigate (only learning later of its charming nickname, the “feral area”) where I’m lucky enough to meet His Royal Highness himself, the Bogan King — aka Jordan Dalton, from Melbourne.
“Bogan King, really? Self-proclaimed?”
He shrugs and strokes his handlebar mo: “Sometimes yes, sometimes no”.
He and his crew — all in blueys — are chilling around a campfire or kicking back on the back of the ute.
There’s cans littered everywhere, but they’re generous at least: “Want one?”
I pass — we’re on the clock after all — and we leave them to their ultimate lads’ weekend.
A few rows down — in between the revving engines, (fully-clothed) jelly bathing, and several offers of beer bongs (country hospitality I tell ya!) — are Ron and Tricia Flowers, an elderly couple from Tasmania, having a quiet bite to eat in the front of their 1962 EH Holden ute.
“One of of only 147 ever produced in automatic,” Ron proclaims, stroking the powder blue bonnet.
He’s had the car for about 40 years and it’s their fourth ute muster; though it takes a bit to get here, it’s worth it.
“We’re next to these young boys,” she gestures to the camps around her, “and they’ve been so lovely, we’re so impressed with how nice they’ve been,” Tricia says
Of course, anyone who thinks it’s just for the boys is mistaken.
Taking part in the Holden Grunt Pull are a group of eight chicks, one hen and no, er ... “roosters”.
Bright girl Tiffany Carne and her sister come to Deni regularly, and this year her friends arranged for it to be her hen’s weekend.
“It’s not as bad as everyone says,” first-timer Stephanie Stewart says.
“Just don’t expect to shower,” says Tiffany.
As night begins to fall, the sea of blueys drifts over to the main stage for the evening’s concert.
You know, it’s actually quite a lovely shade of blue, those singlets ... goes well with my jeans. So yep, I bought one — well, if you can’t beat ‘em, I’ll quite happily join ‘em.
Now all I need is a ute.