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From Madison Square Garden to Deniliquin

They have played at the biggest festivals in the world, won awards at the most prestigious ceremonies and been feted by fans across the globe. Now they're playing at Deniliquin - population 7500.

This Easter, Santana, Chris Isaak, Bonnie Raitt and Jason Mraz will front a blues festival at the country town on the border of NSW and Victoria.

Many of the top-name artists will travel between Bluesfest in Byron Bay and the Deniliquin event on the same weekend.

With the backing of promoters Michael Chugg and Rob Potts, the new event will put ''Deni'' - as it's known to the locals - firmly on the music map.

When Santana, who has sold more than 100 million albums, steps into town, he will be warmly greeted by Deniliquin mayor Lindsay ''Silver'' Renwick, who admits

he is thrilled the musician will be performing there.


''I've got his CD - my wife and I have been big fans,'' Cr Renwick said. ''When it was announced Santana was coming, I couldn't believe what they were telling me.''

The mayor has been a key player in turning around Deniliquin's fortunes.

Part of the success is due the town's annual ute muster. When the event began 15 years ago, Deniliquin was in the grip of desperate drought and struggling to keep its economy afloat.

Now the muster turns over millions, paying for a high level of infrastructure that allows the blues festival to be staged.

''When we first announced this festival, some people did think it was a joke,'' Matthew Lazarus-Hall from Chugg Entertainment said. ''But in Deniliquin they've been quite visionary in spending money on infrastructure. The site they've got there has two permanent stages, and lots of power and water and permanent bars. It's not in the middle of a paddock - it's actually quite a sophisticated set-up.''

About 10,000 fans, mainly from Victoria, NSW and South Australia, are expected to attend the blues event. ''It's about saying 'What can we do to keep our town going?' said John Harvie, the general manager of the inaugural festival.

Michael Chugg said Santana was excited about playing at the festival.

''He's been coming to Australia since the early 1970s, and loves it that he can still take his music to new audiences and places, particularly coming this time to Deniliquin,'' Chugg said.