This festival is dirty, dusty and a whole lot of fun
Tough, tenacious competitors mingle with fun-seeking spectators at this unique Outback event.
For more than 20 years, the Julia Creek Dirt 'n' Dust Festival has celebrated the spirit of the Queensland Outback and had a lot of cheeky fun along the way.
At the heart of proceedings is a triathlon billed as "Australia's toughest". With a swim leg in a muddy creek, a run through the shimmering desert heat and a cycle down a highway known for its headwinds, it's an event that attracts those who are dedicated, and perhaps a little crazy, according to festival spokeswoman Amanda Carter.
"It's unlike any other event in Australia," Carter says. "We have a whole range of people who come to do it, including people in their 70s."
The festival, which runs from April 17-19, 2020, started its life in the small town of Julia Creek, 250km east of Mt Isa, in 1994 when the idea for a triathlon was born over drinks at the local pub. Just 15 people took part in the race that first year; it now attracts about 3000 people and has swelled to include lots of other fun events.
Festivities kick off on Friday afternoon with the family-friendly Adventure Trail Run, which was a popular addition in 2019. Participants can choose a 16km, 11km or 5.5km course, facing obstacles such as bog holes and tyre gauntlets.
Then it's time for the opening night celebrations, which include rides, novelty events such as cow pat throwing, pig racing and three-legged races, and an outdoor concert.
"It's a real party too," Carter says. "We get a crowd who dance into the early hours of the morning."
Saturday is the big day, with the main event, the South32 Senior Triathlon. Billed as "Australia's toughest sprint triathlon", about 300 participants brave the elements in an 800m swim, 25km ride and 5km run.
That's followed by the Artesian Express Race Day, with horse races and Fashions on the Field. As the sun sets on Saturday night, Dirt 'n' Dust Central opens to another party with a bull-riding competition, more musical performances and Australia's Best Butt Competition.
After years of drought followed by devastating floods in early 2019, during which many locals lost livestock and their livelihoods, Carter says people were looking forward to the festival more than ever.
"It's definitely affected the community and I think that's why we're excited for this year because it's something that will bring everyone together and lift spirits post that big flood," she says.