Bluesfest from Byron Bay, one of the nation’s most acclaimed music festivals here and internationally, won the top prize as the Australian Event of the Year, in addition to being named Australia’s Best Cultural or Arts Event, announced at last night’s Australian Event Awards held at Sydney’s Olympic Park.

For the annual Bluesfest, a long-time pioneer of blues and roots music for 21 years and now held on its own site at Tyagarah, this recognition by industry peers came as a big surprise and is literally a dream come true.

Bluesfest Festival Director Peter Noble said: “When I woke up this morning, the awards were still in my hotel room, so I realised I hadn’t been dreaming.

“Yet, in another sense, this is a culmination of a lifetime’s work, so it really is a dream come true.

“Imagine our surprise when little old Bluesfest from sleepy Byron Bay won the nation’s Best Cultural or Arts Event let alone the Australian Event of the Year!

“I’m told this major win is an acknowledgement of what Bluesfest does year in and year out in sticking to our guns, retaining the integrity of our event, and for what we provide back to Australian culture – and for that we are truly honoured and grateful.

“Of course, this type of accolade does not come from the work of one person alone, in particular Annika Oman and Taryn Kamphorst from the Bluesfest office are to be congratulated and acknowledged for preparing our submission that won against such magnificent competition.

“I am also indebted to Justin Brown from Brown Dog Productions who made the fantastic DVD show reel which gave us such an edge, according to some of the judges, and Brendan Meek from Bluesfest for his ongoing great contribution to our company’s endeavours.”

In the category for Best Cultural or Arts Event, Bluesfest emerged triumphant over prestigious finalist events such as the 17th Biennale of Sydney and WOMADelaide 2010.

Winners in the event awards’ 20+ categories are automatically entered as a nominee for the top gong, so when Bluesfest 2010 won Australian Event of the Year, it did so ahead of many of the country’s elite and wide-ranging events such as the Sydney 2009 World Masters Games, Sydney Royal Easter Show, Microsoft Tech Ed 2009, the Australian Open Tennis 2010, Sydney International FIFA Fan Fest, Peats Ridge Festival, the 2010 Good Food & Wine Show at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre – and many more.

Bluesfest has also just this week achieved 11 years ‘security of tenure’ for its new site that the event owns at Tyagarah just north of Byron Bay. Byron Shire Council voted to extend the festival’s Development Application out to and including the 2021 Bluesfest festival and increased the maximum crowd numbers (including staff) to 20,000 per day.