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Real Life

REAL LIFE: 'Mullets put our tiny town back on the map'

Meet the mum responsible for turning heads with her unusual idea.

By As told to Take 5

Laura Johnson, 37, from Kurri Kurri, NSW, shares her hairy story:

Scanning the pub as customers swigged on their beers my heart sank.
The atmosphere wasn't how it used to be in my Chelmsford Hotel - better known as the Chelly - in Kurri Kurri, NSW.
The town was going through an economic downturn and the pub that'd been in my family for 28 years was now a shadow of its former lively self.
My husband JJ, 42, and I were struggling too, especially as my best friend's husband, Matt, was battling brain cancer.
"Everyone could do with a good laugh," I said to JJ and our four boys Ian, Jay, Leverett and Max.
I also wanted to help locals get back on their feet by bringing cash for tourism to town.
But how?
JJ and me on our wedding day. Love the man, love the mullet! Image: supplied
A girlfriend, Sarah, and I were gas-bagging a few days later when inspiration struck.
"I wonder if guys compare their mullets?" Sarah mused.
"Surely," I replied. "JJ's got one, his dad's has too, so have Max and Leverett - they all think theirs is the best."
I wasn't a mullet fan - when I started dating JJ and he took off his hat proudly shaking that famously bogan 'do - I was mortified!
He was a diehard mullet lover so I had no choice but learn to love it.
Then all our kids wanted mullets and, being a hairdresser, I was the one who had to snip and style them.
"Let's hold a mullet comp," I blurted.
I sprang into action, researching the logistics and building a website.
"We'll hold it at the pub, and I'll be the MC," I explained to JJ.
"People enter into 10 different mullet categories like grubby - for dirty, dreadlock mullets; vintage - for older contestants, everyday mullets; rookie, extreme and we can even have a Ranga one."
Me and JJ with our mullet-loving boys. Image: supplied
My plan soon came together, and with that Mulletfest was born.
It would help the town and we'd donate funds to the Mark Hughes Foundation - a not-for-profit charity for research into a cure for brain cancer.
Matt was stoked when we told him.
On the day, the atmosphere became electric as 20 locals took to the stage to try to win the first mullet championship.
Finally laughter bounced off the walls once again in the Chelly.
The following year, Mulletfest entries soared to 140 and the town's population exploded to 3000.
They flocked in with extreme mullet mohawks, mini-mullets for babies, 'party' side down to their backside and then there were mullets and mulletettes (female mullets) entering the Ranga category.
But it was a bitter-sweet time.
Sadly, three weeks later Matt lost his battle with brain cancer.
We were heartbroken but it made us determined to carry on with our mission to spread smiles and fundraise.
With the family on stage at the big event. Image: supplied
In February this year, we held the fourth Mulletfest.
We've raised over $30k for the Mark Hughes foundation and Mulletfest has become global.
We've hosted production crews from Croatia and the Czech Republic who came to Kurri to film a documentary.
Mulletfest saved our town and I want to help others come back from the brink, so we're hitting the road to help rural and regional towns doing it tough.
People with mullets are often considered bogans but we're from all walks of life - it's all business at the front and a party at the back.
Mulletfest has brought love, laughter, mateship and happiness back to my town and it helps save lives.

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