THE Central NSW town of Parkes is perhaps best known for the CSIRO’s observatory, which has been attracting people to the town since it was built in 1961.
Its radio telescope works day and night, through rain and cloud, and even though it is not a NASA facility it has often been contacted to receive signals from NASA spacecraft and others.
The Australian film The Dish was loosely based on the telescope’s role in receiving pictures from the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned moon landing, in July 1969.
The gold-rush town’s second biggest claim to fame is the annual Parkes Elvis Festival, which will return next year from January 9-13, this time with the ’50s theme All Shook Up.
What began as a small get-together between like-minded Elvis fans in 1993 now draws the country’s best Elvis tribute artists and more than 25,000 people to shake, rattle and roll.
But there’s a lot more to Parkes, making it a great place to visit at any time.
At the Parkes Aviation Museum you can inspect historic aircraft and antique vehicles, while at the Henry Parkes Centre you can find a wealth of treasures including the Parkes Motor Museum which holds an impressive collection of heritage motor vehicles dating from 1914-86.
The centre also contains the nation’s biggest collection of Elvis Presley artefacts tracing his early and later life through books, documents, clothing and furniture.
The adjacent Parkes Museum is a great place to spend a few hours tracing the area’s social history through artefacts gathered from pioneering families, including an amazing display of old rural machinery.
Winding among the town’s historic buildings, the Parkes Public Art Trail depicts the town’s culture and character, including a female astronaut, Sir Henry Parkes and, of course, Elvis. Art works and storytelling of the traditional landowners, the Wiradjuri people, loom large in public spaces.
Other interesting sights include the Peak Hill Gold Mine with its open-cut pits.
For accommodation you can bed down at the appropriately named Astro Dish Motor Inn with its handy onsite restaurant, Galaxy.
Sue Preston was a guest of Central NSW Tourism