A lot of young Melbourne music writers are enamoured with the Meredith Music Festival, which leads to a lot of hyperbolic writing about how amazing it is.
But take it from someone who's attended for almost 10 years - most of the time they're spot-on and it really is that good.
The music is world-class, easily the match of bigger international corporate festivals or All Tomorrow's Parties at its height, and its commitment to local musicians is stunning.
In 2011, a group of hairy young men from Anglesea were the first band to play, opening the entire festival with songs from their buzzing EP - nine years later, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard approach Grateful Dead-esque reverence across the world.
The year before that - one this writer was too young to attend - a Perth psychedelic band played as a trio early in the morning.
Tame Impala is now conquering massive stages in front of hundreds of thousands of people, and it's guaranteed you've heard at least one of their songs.
The festival does not skimp on spectacle when it needs to, from laser shows set to Thunderstruck, to a pulsing rainbow light display when marriage equality passed, or one memorable set from Melbourne legends Barbarion, who it appears bought every flamethrower in the state.
You might get Nick Cave bellowing at you while reaching out to the throng, or Brendan Suppression rushing to relax while held aloft by hundreds in the mosh pit, or Amyl and the Sniffers cheekily using a live Omegle feed as a backdrop.
The lineup is so eclectic that the best act from the weekend is often one you've never heard of before - Mildlife seized a headline opportunity to become instantly beloved, and try and find someone not talking about Waterfall Person after experiencing their set.
A personal highlight was watching disco pioneers Chic from atop a Ferris wheel, with a mate who's afraid of heights - Good Times indeed.
Twice a year, the Supernatural Amphitheatre provides the ultimate party with thousands of your best mates, from sunset celebrations on a cliff to the Ecoplex Cinema curiousities.
The sense of community is tangible, from the origin story of Chris Nolan's mates on his family farm, Chris' own story and the people stopping by his primo spot on the hill to say hello, to the general friendliness of punters as soon as you enter the gates.
This commitment to the community is perhaps best exemplified by the Tucker Tent, which has pride of place in the International Food Court near the Hare Krishnas and Ballarat's own Forge Pizzeria.
The Tucker Tent is staffed by volunteers from the district's community groups and sports clubs, slinging sausages and veggie burgers all day - the line for egg and bacon sandwiches in the mornings snakes up and down the hill, but it always moves quickly and with good cheer.
Thousands of dollars are raised for groups across the Meredith township each year, at the December festival and at the Golden Plains sister event in March.
The festival handbook, which you get when you arrive, always profiles one or two of the groups, and it's nice to know you're helping raise money for the primary school or sports clubs - it's like the world's biggest and best Bunnings sausage sizzle.
Several community groups have spoken about how proud they are of the festival, and how important it is for the tiny town to keep institutions going.
But what happens when a global pandemic forces public events, like a 16,000-capacity music festival, to shut down?
Music festival organisers have not yet made an announcement confirming the 2020 event - the festival's 30th birthday - will be going ahead or not, but given similar events like the Falls Festival announced cancellations, many people are preparing for the worst.
For punters, it might mean no tying the couch to the roof of the car or catching up with old friends over Pink Flamingos while bands rumble through a sheep paddock - but for community groups, it means that injection of cash might not be available to complete projects or help them weather the crisis themselves.
The Courier spoke to a few of them, and all acknowledged two things - how lucky they were to have an event like the festival in their backyard, and that they never expect or ask for funding, but it certainly helps.
The Meredith Rural Fire Brigade has had a long association with the festival, particularly in the summer.
The festival has its own tanker, which Captain Chris Jones said is a benefit for the district - sometimes it's the first vehicle to arrive on scene, or it relieves other tankers to fight bigger fires.
"They're big on ensuring the community has the best capabilities to protect not only the festival, but the community itself," he said.
"We have nothing but the strongest ties with the festival, our relationship with them has grown substantially over the last 10 to 15 years."
That includes ties to the Nolan family - Chris' father Jack was the longest-serving member of the brigade and one of Mr Jones' mentors before he passed away, and his mother Mary, another familiar face at the festival, still stays in contact.
Mr Jones said if the festival was postponed for a year, it wouldn't affect the brigade too much immediately, but noted it was already hard enough to raise money in a small town.
"It's like any community, it's hard to find that spare dollar, but we don't have to do that, we're very lucky we have that income steam through the festival as well," he said.
"We can survive a couple of years without it, but it's a sign of the times - we're not going to start rattling the tins in town, but we hope (the pandemic's) over soon enough, and the festival can continue the way it was."
A ritual at the festival is trekking out of the campsite to grab bags of ice for the esky from a freezer trailer near the Ferris wheel every morning - in the last few years, that's been run by representatives from the Meredith Memorial Hall, established 1905.
According to secretary Sandra Pearce, the committee was hoping to finish access ramps for the entrances to the hall, but without the festival providing an opportunity to raise money, and the lack of events like weddings to bring in regular income, that might have to be put on hold for a little longer.
"The funds that we get are very valuable, because we try to keep the cost of the hire of the hall down as much as possible - the hall is made up of the community, and it's for the community," she said.
"Over the years it's been the hub of the town - we're endeavouring to be proactive so we can stay on top of the maintenance, then we don't have to do major, major works."
She concurred with Mr Jones about the difficulties in raising money in small towns.
"It puts a bit of responsibility on the committee - I think this is really great having that source of funding, because like all organisations, there's a time and a place for barbecues, sausage sizzles and cake making, if people don't need to do it, that's well and good because it depends on your age group of your committee
"We will be very reliant on state and local government funding ... but I think committees are rather wary of applying because of the pandemic, it's a catch 22 - people can't come together, but we want to support local builders or tradies to keep them in their jobs."
It's also not unusual to see entire footy clubs pull together for a shift in the Tucker Tent, which doubles as a team building exercise.
But if the festival doesn't go ahead this year, the Meredith Golf Club is facing a challenging year - president Peter Nemtsas described the festival as a "lifeline".
"We struggle with membership in a small community, and we struggle with volunteers to maintain the course and do what we need," he said.
"(If the festival is postponed) we'll have to curb some of our upkeep of the course, any spend on new equipment is being delayed because of that - we get a significant amount of funding through (the festival), so it makes it very difficult."
Meredith Primary School principal Steven Trotter said the festival's contributions were like having "barbecue after barbecue", but noted the schoolbuses might not get stuck in traffic this December.
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"For me, the festival is a huge supporter of the Meredith community and it is a privilege that we are lucky enough to have such an outstanding well regarded festival in our town," he said in a statement.
"I know that in making any decision about the 2020 festival or any other, at the top of their list will be the health, safety and wellbeing of the community, the staff, the volunteers, the festival goers and the musicians."
Festival organisers were contacted for this article but declined to comment.
If they're reading this - please get Massive Attack to play pronto.
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