Gulliver's country music debut
All dressed up for annual Cavalcade
Wearing a custom-made red and white plaid bandana tied neatly around his neck, Gulliver the world's biggest Guide Dog is ready to make his Tamworth Country Music Festival debut at this year's Cavalcade.
At 4.3 metres tall, the giant blonde Labrador made from fibreglass will join other colourful floats and country music stars in the annual parade along Peel St on January 23.
With an office in Tamworth, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is hoping the inclusion of Gulliver in the parade will deliver a very important message about how the organisation helps local people who are blind or vision impaired to safely, confidently and independently negotiate their environments.
"Like Gulliver on his travels throughout the ACT and NSW, our instructors travel to wherever our free services are required," Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Regional Manager, Jeremy Hill said.
"We come to you, wherever that may be - your home, your workplace, your school or university - learning to find your way around your particular environment is a top priority,"
Among those who are excited that Gulliver is coming to town are Tamworth residents Ross McGregor and Phillip Tilley, who are both supported by the free services offered by Guide Dogs.
Mr McGregor a musician, lost his vision at eight years old due to detached retinas, and uses his long cane and other mobility aids such as a Mini-Guide to walk confidently to where he needs to go.
Having worked in the music industry for 40 years and formally owning a recording studio where he laid down tracks for a number of country artists, Mr McGregor said he liked to attend the cavalcade to listen to the fun event.
"There is a sea of pipe bands and live music as the cavalcade travels along the street," he said.
The annual festival and parade is also a highlight of the year for country music lover, Mr Tilley, who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa or 'RP' about 15 years ago.
"I've attended the festival for the past 30 years, and having Gulliver in town is bound to attract attention and raise awareness for an organisation that I can't speak strongly enough about," he said.
Like Mr McGregor, Mr Tilley also uses a long white cane to move around independently and a GPS trekker and meets regularly with an orientation and mobility specialist.
Mr Hill said he was hoping Gulliver would prompt people who may be experiencing trouble reading the television guide or their favourite book to find out about the services offered by Guide Dogs.
"A person doesn't have to be totally blind to receive assistance - whether you're losing your sight due to Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma or another condition or injury, we can help you to understand your vision loss and provide practical advice on how to maintain your independence so you can continue to get around safely and confidently," he said.
"We visit you, where and when it suits you and the service is free of charge."
Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind.
For more information about local services contact the Guide Dogs on 02 6652 7424.