Forget Tinder! According to recent research, live events – whether music festivals or sporting spectacles – are must do's for boosting your chances of finding true love.
And with Queensland home to more than 116 of Australia's best live events in the best destinations (packaged up in Tourism and Events Queensland's It's Live! In Queensland calendar), there's no better time to start looking for love in all the right places.
Michelle Storey, 40, and Clinton Anderson, 37, from Woodford, are living proof. The couple, who now own a concreting business, met at the Gympie Music Muster in 2006, married in front of the festival's Crowbar seven years later and introduced their six-week-old daughter, Ariya, to the feel-good shindig in 2014.
Their story, like countless other loved-up couples, pays testament to a 2015 national survey of 1,000 Australians by Eventbrite that reveals real-life connections outrank online hook-ups in taking a possible love match to the next level.
The Eventbrite survey found 49 per cent met a -significant other' at a live event, with a whopping 93 per cent giving the thumbs-up to -locking eyes for the first time' over receiving a request via social media. A further five per cent of respondents got engaged and four per cent exchanged vows at a live event.
'I wore a white wedding dress and cowboy boots… it was a beautiful day," says Michelle, who this year has high hopes for one of Clinton's six brothers – recently single and accompanying them to this year's 35th Gympie Music Muster (25-28 August).
Another couple who will be back to share the love, is David and Kylie Spelde, from Muswellbrook, in New South Wales' Hunter Valley. David, 51, an electrician, proposed to his wife, Kylie, 37, a disability services educator, at the 2013 Gympie Music Muster. The couple have returned every year since and will this year induct their five-month-old daughter, Livia.
'It's our must anticipated trip every year," says David. 'I knew straight away it was going to be a special place to propose to the love of my life."
Also from New South Wales, Tracy and Darren Cummings' first trip to the Gympie Music Muster – Australia's largest charity festival, staged in Queensland's idyllic Amamoor Creek State Forest – doubled as their wedding day in 2012.
Tracy, 37, a nutritionist, and Darren, 42, a miner, from Clarence Town, exchanged vows near the festival's Crowbar and even lassoed Country Music star Lee Kernaghan into a wedding snap. He dedicated a rendition of Fire to the happy couple.
'Plus, we got to sing backing vocals on Lee's song Ute Me – along with everyone else at the Muster! He recorded that song there," says Tracy. 'So, it was an incredible wedding day for us – much better than eloping to Las Vegas.
'When we snuck back to our tent that night – our honeymoon tent – our camping neighbours recognised us as -the couple who got married' and, in the morning, we found all these flowers outside our tent door. Just amazing!"
The Gympie Music Muster has matched a seemingly endless line-up of couples from across Queensland, includingPauline, 35, and Matthew Hills, 33, from Miriam Vale, near Gladstone. They met at the Muster in 2003. Matthew, a plant operator at Gladstone Ports Corporation proposed at the event the following year, with the couple even -squeezing pregnancies' around the annual event.
'It's funny, a lot of our family milestones have centred around the Muster," says Pauline, 35, who runs the Miriam Vale Post Office. 'We've got two young girls [Kenadie, 7, and Addison, 4] who haven't missed it yet – one was three-months-old at her first Muster and the other 11 months."
Truth be known, Gympie Music Muster organisers have lost count of love matches at the event – itself a country music treasure in a town that ironically changed its name from Nashville to Gympie in 1868. Even multi-award winning Country Music superstar, Troy Cassar-Daley met his missus there in 1993.
'I had just finished my spot on main stage and a friend introduced us," says Troy. 'I remember she was beautiful, brunette and sharp as a tack. I proposed to her two years later in the same spot… backstage at the Muster!"
Troy, who is back on this year's Gympie Music Muster line-up (where he will release his 10th solo album, Things I Carry Around, on 26 August) says his wife – Brisbane girl, Laurel Edwards, presenter on Channel 7's The Great South East and host of Classic Hits 4KQ – is also a -wonderful singer'.
'Laurel used to perform around Brisbane in the 90s… in fact, she beat me at the Gympie Music Muster Talent Search in 1992 and, to this day, still rubs it in!"
Performing at the festival every couple of years since 1991, Troy has also witnessed love matches in the crowd: 'I played at a wedding in the camping grounds at the Muster in 2009… like-minded people who love music and share their lives. How perfect!
'I just love being at the Muster. It's such a unique event and I love the people it draws and the catch-up with friends – and it is right on my door step! It will always be special to me because I met Laurel there."
It's a similar story, some 1,700km away, at the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo, now in its 57th year, where 2013 Rodeo Queen entrant, Irena Paznikov, 27, who met the love of her life, with wedding plans afoot for next year. In 2012, the Brisbane girl and team leader of a homelessness service, moved to the town, dubbed -the oasis of the outback', meeting her fiancé, Steve Treichel, 35, at Australia's richest rodeo, also the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
'He was dressed as a cowboy, but he tricked me," Irena jokes of her husband-to-be, actually a pipefitter and caretaker at Mount Isa Mines. He dropped to one knee and proposed at the 2014 event, having pre-arranged a congratulatory announcement by country music trio, The McClymonts.
'Steve helped me through the whole Rodeo Queen quest and, if we survived that we, can survive anything; that's what the quest coordinator told me." The couple now have a 14-month old daughter, Elizabeth.
For all the single ladies, Irena confirms cowboys are true gentlemen, with a long line-up of talent at this year's Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo (12-14 August); both in the ring and on stage, including Toowoomba's country-rock artist, Mick Lindsay, reportedly a big hit with the gals. Others taking to the stage for -Rock the Rodeo' include Deep Creek Road, Tori Darke and Karrie Hayward.
The McClymonts, meanwhile will appear at the Gympie Music Muster alongside Troy Cassar-Daley, John Williamson, Kasey Chambers, Beccy Cole and Gympie's own Caitlyn Shadbolt (who made Top 5 on X Factor Australia 2014 and won the 2016 Commercial Radio Australia New Artist to Nashville Scholarship).
Standing tall as Australia's largest charity festival, raising more than $15 million, the Muster even helped shape the career of Keith Urban, who first appeared in the 1980s as a 14-year-old schoolboy in a four-member group from Caboolture Country Music Club.
Gympie Music Muster executive director David Gibson says festival goers – artists included – are first and foremost drawn to the event's positive social vibe, including on-site camping facilities.
'We'll see 10 lads sitting around a campfire with couches they've just bought from Vinnies for $20 and they're having the time of their lives," says David. 'Next door, there's a camper van with grey nomads… and they all get on really well. That's what I love."
Lucky in love or not, attending a music festival is also linked to heightened happiness and well-being. University of Queensland researchers, Associate Professor Julie Ballantyne, Professor Roy Ballantyne and Associate Professor Jan Packer discovered music festival attendees not only reported feeling a sense of happiness, but also felt more positive about life and inspired to do something creative as a result of attending. Further, those who attended for multiple days had a more positive experience than those who attended for one. The research, published in 2014, was conducted at the Woodford Folk Festival – another event on the It's Live! In Queensland calendar.
Finally, Australia's biggest international country and roots festival, CMC Rocks QLD, this year hosted its first -Sweethearts Saloon' speed dating night. The initiative, drawing over 600 requests for just 50 seats, is already on the bill for 2017 at Ipswich's Willowbank Raceway. CMC Rocks celebrates its 10th anniversary next year.
Set your heart racing: Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo (12-14 August), Gympie Music Muster (25-28 August),Woodford Folk Festival (27 December 2016 – 1 January 2017) and CMC Rocks QLD (10-12 March 2017) are just a handful of events on the It's Live! In Queensland calendar. Don't miss any of the action:www.queensland.com/events
Pitch perfect: If you love camping, there's no better place than the Gympie Music Muster to pitch a tent, park your camper or book into a five-star tent city, aptly named -Banjo's Gold', offering everything bar a butler. Check it out:http://www.muster.com.au/getprepared/tentmotel
Sharing the love: Since its inception, the Gympie Music Muster has collared more than 525,000 volunteer working hours, valued at around $17.5 million. This year, more than 1,000 volunteers will help share the love.