Die-hard fan's 34 magic Gympie Muster years
FROM it's humble beginnings in 1982, the Gympie Music Muster has grown into one of the biggest festivals in the country.
With more than $15 million raised for charity so far, the Muster is now an Australian country music institution.
Die-hard fan Mal Williams, who has been to every Muster (except the very first), can't believe how much it's changed.
"It's just gotten so big now," Mal said. "I can remember John Williamson at my first one and the likes of Slim Dusty playing.
"Sadly, we don't have Slim any more, but John still comes out and that's just remarkable."
The Gympie Muster, as it's known today, had humble beginnings, with the first three held out on the Webb Brother's family property of Thornside, at Widgee.
A grand total of $12,000 was raised for charity in its first year, and was considered such a success that the one-off event became an annual occasion.
It soon outgrew its setting and made the move to its home in the Amamoor State Forest.
Over three and a half decades, the festival's attracted the likes of a young Keith Urban, Troy Cassar-Daley and John Farnham - a festival highlight for Mal.
"I remember when he came out on stage for Drought Relief," he said, "and the rain was just pouring down".
Having watched the Muster grow from its early days, from droughts to floods and everything in between, Mal has seen everything the Muster has to offer.
This includes seeing young up-and-comers evolve into stars.
"I remember watching young Kasey Chambers on stage as a little teenager, and to just see what she's become now is amazing."
Despite all of the changes, Mal's confident some things will always stay the same.
"You meet that many people every year, and you make new friends," he said. "You see the same ones come and then they bring others.
"To me the Muster's always been about the comradeship and the friends you make along the way."
The 35th Muster's got underway yesterday and officials are expecting upwards of 22,000 country music fanatics to stream into Amamoor State Forest Park this weekend.
Crowds can expect to see the likes of Kasey Chambers, John Williamson and the McClymonts, as well as more than 100 acts from Australia and overseas.
And will Mal be making the trip back in 2017?
"I just can't stop coming," he said with a grin. "It's just one of those things that gets in your blood."