Over the weekend, I was at a theatre festival near Deniliquin (yeah, it’s a thing, but that’s another story). As always when I travel towards inland NSW, I’m struck by the differences in culture compared to where I spend most of my time. It’s not that I think one’s better than the other – I’m a country kid, myself. You just see things out there that you wouldn’t here in Melbourne.

For example, while at the town’s local pub, I overheard some enthusiastic talk about the upcoming ute muster. From the sounds of it, it’s kind of a big deal – the largest event of its kind in the world, apparently. I know these things are always trying to compete with each other for getting together the most utes in one place.

What exactly is a ute muster, you ask? Well, clearly you’re a city slicker in dire need of cluing in. A ute muster is basically an event where people gather to show off their utes, which are often uniquely modified. From 4×4 aluminium canopies customised for off-road use to elaborate collections of rare bumper stickers, it’s all on display.

There are prizes for things like ‘best 4WD’, ‘most feral ute’ and ‘best dog in cabin’, maybe a music stage or agricultural display, and often a fundraising tie-in of some description. Sometimes there’s camping. Ultimately, though, it’s all about that stuff: ute trays, ute toolboxes, ute canopies. Melbourne has nothing on inland NSW for utility vehicles, I’m telling you. Purely out of competitive spirit, it makes me want to trade in my ultralight road bike for a big old monster truck.

And that was just from overhearing a discussion about it at the pub. I’ve never even been to a ute muster, and yet I can feel myself getting all geed up to show off my non-existent pride and joy. Maybe Melbourne needs to get a bike muster or something.