Delungra family gets the show back on the road

Fourth generation show operators John Castle and Leanne Phillips set up their food truck at Delungra after COVID-19 shuts down country shows

Life & Style
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This weekend's Glen Innes show marks a return to the show circuit for John Castle and Leanne Phillips.

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John Castle and Leanne Phillips have been travelling the state's show circuit for years until the COVID-19 pandemic stuck. Photo: Billy Jupp

John Castle and Leanne Phillips have been travelling the state's show circuit for years until the COVID-19 pandemic stuck. Photo: Billy Jupp

TO get your fill of fairy floss, dagwood dogs and burgers you would usually have to wait for your community's annual show to roll around.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused countless shows across the country to be cancelled in 2020, depriving locals of their showtime fix.

Despite the setback, a family of fourth-generation showmen and women decided to bring the culinary delights of the annual events to travellers passing through the small town of Delungra between Warialda and Inverell in the state's North West.

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Castle Events director John Castle said the decision to bring his partner Leanne Phillips and his business, the Rock 'N' Roll Diner, back to his family home in Delungra came to him in a dream.

"Basically, the last shows we were able to do before the pandemic hit and shut everything down was the Elton John concert last year and the country music festival at Macksville," Mr Castle said.

"We were based at Coffs Harbour at the time and I was a bit concerned about what we were going to do economically once all of the shows were cancelled.

"Then one night my father came to me in a dream and told me to 'go home son', so we packed everything up, came back to Delungra and set up our food truck on the side of the road.

"There wasn't any real take-away food stores in the town, so we became pretty popular with truck drivers and passers by, and it turned out to be a great decision that helped keep us going."

John Castle and Leanne Phillips have been travelling the state's show circuit for years until the COVID-19 pandemic stuck. Photo: Billy Jupp

John Castle and Leanne Phillips have been travelling the state's show circuit for years until the COVID-19 pandemic stuck. Photo: Billy Jupp

As well as serving up hot food, the family-run operation also brings sideshow alley trucks, such as the laughing clowns, to shows across the state.

"It has been pretty tough for food vendors without the shows but I think the rides and attraction guys have probably been hit the hardest," Mr Castle said.

"We're not the only showmen to set up their food trucks in a permeant location, which has helped keep us going.

"However, those guys who operate the attractions don't have that option, so I think they have done it pretty tough."

John Castle and Leanne Phillips have been travelling the state's show circuit for years until the COVID-19 pandemic stuck. Photo: Billy Jupp

John Castle and Leanne Phillips have been travelling the state's show circuit for years until the COVID-19 pandemic stuck. Photo: Billy Jupp

After more than a year off the event circuit, the team is eagerly anticipating its first show of the year at Glen Innes this weekend.

"I've been involved with the show societies here in the New England for months now and while there is a lot of shows down south which have cancelled, which is understandable, I think shows in this half of the state are pushing on," Mr Castle said.

"Stanthorpe was the first show in this part of the world that got going with all of the COVID-safe requirements and I think a lot of people were surprised that while there have been some changes, everything works pretty well once it is up and running.

"We're really looking forward to getting back into it this weekend at Glen Innes."

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