The unexpected easing of social distancing restrictions in NSW from Friday has brought a welcome lift in patron numbers for an upcoming major fundraising music event in Gundaroo, just north of Canberra.
The Gundaroo Music Festival is usually held every year on the country town's oval in honour of local musician Scott Windsor, who had been a founder of the festival but died from motor neurone disease back in 2015.
The event is now held to raise funds to fight MND. Its elaborate plans were thwarted this year as social distancing restrictions pulled the shutters down on most major events.
Cancellation appeared almost certain, but the organisers pressed ahead and sought an alternative plan, determined to maintain the fundraising momentum for October 24.
The event, now known as the Gundaroo Music Wedge, has been transferred to the beer garden of the local Gundaroo Colonial Inn, where publican Chris Connor said the welcome news from NSW health authorities regarding Friday's easing of restrictions meant around 140 people, including staff, could now attend the October 24 event.
Social distancing requirements have been shrunk from one person per four square metres to one person per two square metres.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said hospitality venues will still be required to have a COVID-19 safety plan and use electronic methods to capture and keep contact records of their patrons.
"This is great news for the show, great news for the fundraising effort, and we're now rejigging our preparations to make it a bigger day than we'd originally planned," Mr Connor said.
"Our sponsors have all stuck with us, which is great, so the evening show will be geared more to looking after them - a bit of a VIP experience to says thanks for being there through these tough times."
In its previous guise, the festival attracted national headline acts such as the Black Sorrows, Moving Pictures, Russell Morris, the Superjesus and Mental As Anything, with a fireworks show to finish the evening.
But with many acts unable to travel or stuck in lockdown, the line-up this year is still hastily being assembled.
Canberra singer-songwriter Fred Smith was a non-starter because he's overseas.
Nonetheless, two separate shows are planned on Wedge day, the first starting at 12.30pm and another in the evening.
The event will be livestreamed for those who can't get tickets, with merchandise for sale online to support the cause.
From its inception, the festival was also set up to support emerging local musicians, and in the lead-up over the past month it has been livestreaming the competing acts vying to be finalists on the night.
Four "grand final" acts have now been chosen and will appear on October 24, with last year's winner, Felicity Dowd, as the opener.
Wedge organiser Scott Harding, who was a close friend of Scott Windsor, said pushing ahead with the show despite COVID-19 difficulties couldn't have happened without the support of the local community.
"We've had to roll with the punches a fair bit through the COVID restrictions, but we couldn't have done it without our sponsors and local community behind us," he said.
"It's been a really tough time for charities, for people stuck at home suffering MND and their carers. This is all about them, and supporting them in their battle.
"We've all just got to keep pushing on, keep the awareness going, and raise as much as we can to fund the research effort into this cruel disease."