CYCLONE Winston wasn’t going to stop Tunes in the Tropics, a country music festival held in Nadroga from going ahead last month.
Tunes in the Tropics, held at the Hideaway Resort on the coral coast is a Music Festival organised by Australian country music enthusiasts and it was planned for the very day Tropical Cyclone Winston 20-27 February 2016!
The week-long country music festival has been growing in popularity since it was first held in 2010, and this year included Adam Harvey, Ashleigh Dallas, Travis Collins, Mickey Pye, Kaylee Bell as well as American artists Darryl Worley and John Stone.
Worley and Stone were already at Fiji’s Hideway resort, along with festival organisers Chris and Gemma Watson from Tamworth and a few country music fans as the wild weather front made it’s way towards Fiji on Saturday, February 20.
Flights from Australia, which were due to bring almost 200 more people to the event as well as the other artists, were cancelled.
In Sydney, 110 people were already on the plane when the pilot announced they would not be leaving and they had to disembark.
Every time there was a slight issue or a slight worry – the power went out, or there was a large bang on the roof – the staff just took over and did something fun or funny to make us relax to take away that stress and that worry, said “Tunes in the Tropics” organiser Chris Watson
“When the cylcone hit we had 11 of our clients and friends there, I’m not going to beat around the bush, it was a very confronting time for us,” Chris Watson said.
“I had our 11-month-old daughter Charlotte, and my wife there. Of course my major fear was for them and their safety, they were my concern, followed by our clients and friends on the ground, and then our clients and friends who we were trying to arrange to get to Fiji.
“But the staff there looked after us, they went above and beyond. There were 16 staff there that night, and other staff – unpaid – came back to check on us.
“We were moved to a makeshift bunker for our protection with beds in it.
“Every time there was a slight issue or a slight worry – the power went out, or there was a large bang on the roof – the staff just took over and did something fun or funny to make us relax to take away that stress and that worry.
“These staff members had family members at home who were in a much worse situation than we were, but we were there priority, it was a touching experience.”
While there were 200km/h winds and palm tree branches snapping and hitting the roof, the resort escaped damage. Cylcone Winston had left its worst trail of destruction further north.
Chris was full of praise for Ashleigh Dallas who helped rebook the Sydney passengers, and drummer Simon Wegener who helped get Queensland passengers to Fiji.
In Sydney, flights finally resumed on Monday morning and over the next two days more than 100 fans made it to Fiji.
Bass player Sean Rudd was a late addition to the band, when he got a phone call from Mickey Pye on the Sunday night. Within six hours he was on a flight to Fiji.
Over the next five nights there was entertainment by Travis Collins, Mickey Pye, Darryl Worley, John Stone, Adam Harvey, Kaylee Bell and Tunes in the Tropics ambassador Ashleigh Dallas.
Even a power blackout couldn’t stop the music. When the generator the resort was relying on for electricity in the wake of the cyclone failed on Thursday evening, Adam Harvey, Ashleigh Dallas and Kaylee Bell played acoustically in the darkness, with just lanterns for light.
Near the end of the week, more artists arrived to play for those who stayed on an extra two nights.
“Brigginshaw paid their own way to come over, Luke Dickens just wanted to help out, I mean that’s what the country music industry’s about,” Chris said.
“Luke was on his own personal holiday and heard that we needed a hand and came up for a night to be part of it.”
By By LAURIE BULLOCK