BEEF Week, the region's biggest and most enduring major festival, continued to pull the crowds at the weekend as Casino locked down to kick up its heels.
Favourites such as the cattle competitions, show 'n' shine car show, whip cracking, wood chopping, street parade, rodeo and Mr Beef extravaganza on Saturday were followed yesterday by the Metgasco family fun day at the Casino Village RV Resort, the fly-in muster at the Casino aerodrome and the poetry competition at the Hotel Cecil.
Beef Week committee president Stuart George said there were estimates of up to 20,000 in the streets on Saturday.
"It's hard to judge because it's so spread out now but it was a huge day," he said.
"Many stall holders said they hadn't seen it so big.
"We're obviously doing something right.
"We really want to thank everyone who turned up and everyone who helped out - it wouldn't happen without them."
The Weekend Today TV program on Channel Nine / NBN did live crosses for its weather segments, not for the first time giving Beef Week national exposure.
And the weather certainly played its part, with a glorious Saturday sandwiched between a grey Friday and a chilly, bleak Sunday morning.
The champion led steer of Beef Week was bred by Ian and Kathy Townsend and prepared by Holy Trinity School of Inverell.
Head judge Tim Bayliss of Armidale said the standard in three of the four classes had been very high this year.
As the steaks continued to sizzle on the barbies, the street parade had all the usual colour and smiling faces, and this year something more - people marching for a cause.
They included groups representing the Lock The Gate Alliance, Support Bonalbo Hospital and Save Coraki Hospital.
There was a reaction from some in the crowd to the Metgasco semi-trailer carrying huge pipes and a "Proudly supporting the community" banner.
But any dissent was drowned out by the City of Newcastle RSL Pipe Band that went just ahead of it, even as CSG mining opponents on the footpaths handed out their pamphlets.
Ten minutes later there were scattered cheers for those Lock The Gate activists who took part in the parade.
Beef Week veteran and Lismore MP Thomas George, who shared the public address microphone, allowed them to pass by without any comment, which prompted a few calls from onlookers of "Come on, Thomas, speak up".
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