CHURCHES and music festivals may not usually be synonymous with one another, but on Sunday, December 11, the combination of the two was seamless.
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This year's Fish River Festival was held at St Thomas' Church in O'Connell, with the church being the perfect place to host the ninth annual event.
What started out as an opportunity to provide young people from O'Connell Public School's band a chance to perform for the community several years ago, has since grown into a formidable festival in the area.
"We do it as part of the O'Connell Valley Community Group now, and not the school any longer," said event organiser and chairperson of the community group Trish Forsyth.
"Lots of local artists volunteer their time; Smith and Jones, The Safety of Life at Sea, Matt Boylan-Smith, Jenny Cane, and so many more, every year they're happy to be involved.
"It's a free event and it's around connecting with the community at such a frantic time of the year."
Though the festival has traditionally been held at the O'Connell hotel, following a two-year hiatus, the festival had to find a new home.
"This year, because the hotel is closed currently, we decided on the grounds of St Thomas' Church," Ms Forsyth said.
"It was a smaller venue, more intimate, but as a by-product, everyone raved about what a great place it was to hold a music festival."
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Around 300 people attended the event, and though it usually hosts market stalls and children's entertainment, this year it returned to its grass roots.
"We just pared it right back and got it back to exactly what it was about, which was an opportunity for the community to sit around, reconnect and listen to some really great local bands," Ms Forsyth said.
This turned out to be exactly what the festival needed for its grand return.
"People that attended were just amazed by the quality of the artists and blown away by the talent we have in and around our district," Ms Forsyth said.
"The artists loved it and have all expressed an interest in doing something in that venue and loved the intimacy of the event."
Another special moment that added to the intimacy of the event, was that of a performance of an original song by a Year 3 student.
"That was really special," Ms Forsyth said.
There was a free barbeque available for the event, which was coordinated by the schools Parents and Citizens Association.
The Rural Fire Service also assisted on the day by guiding the public parking area.
"Thank you to those family and friends and community members who got around and helped and were there to support," Ms Forsyth said.
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