Singers, musicians, whipcrackers, photographers and horse riders were just some of the locals who practised in secret for the opening of the Sydney Olympic Games 20 years ago.
Whipcracking took centre stage when Steve Jefferys galloped into the Sydney stadium on September 15, 2000 astride his Australian Stock Horse Ammo and cracked a whip, signalling the start of the dramatic opening ceremony.
Mr Jefferys' dramatic entrance was followed by more than 100 riders flourishing Australian flags, including Gunnedah girls Kate Scicluna and Tanya Bartlett.
Gunnedah's own whipcrackers, father and son duo Steve and Daniel Wicks, later joined 38 others to perform in a sequence about the country's pioneering history.
Mr Wicks was 35-years-old and Daniel was nine when they took their places in a scene filled with corrugated iron, kids running atop and within open water tanks, Hills Hoists, Victor lawn mowers and musicians in Ned Kelly headwear, among other things.
Mr Wicks said it was "humbling" and "a great honour" to be selected.
"It was such a prestigious event for Australia and to be recognised as our heritage event so they wanted to encompass the truly Australian identity - whipcracking, the horsemanship from our pioneers ... who worked so hard to take bullock teams and horse and carts through scrub country. This day and age we take all that stuff for granted," he said.
"Whips weren't used as punishment. They were used to turn bullock teams, horses and cattle. It was used as a soundwave to turn stock in the opposite direction."
Mr Wicks said the whipcrackers camped at the Royal Australian Air Force military air base at Schofields "because everything was in secret".
"We had to sign contracts and weren't allowed to tell anyone what we were about. We had to have a practice every week for six weeks leading up to it so we drove to Sydney and practised our routine," he said.
"Leading up to it, we'd rehearse for two hours then it all had to be choreographed to music ... we were just on a high. You were with celebrities, you were with famous singers ... every rehearsal you'd walk past these people. We didn't know what they were about.
"It was such an honour to be involved."
Mr Wicks said Daniel had already won his first national whipcracking championship by then but was "always a laid-back kid".
"Everyone treated him like he was their own ... we all became one body. It really put whipcracking on a path then to be better and our tricks became harder. I guess everyone grew from the experience," Mr Wicks said.
After the Olympics, Mr Wicks said whipcracking "went forward leaps and bounds".
"The tricks we were doing 20 years ago are amateur-type whipcracking, more the sort of thing an average person would do on a farm, but ... people started experimenting with different routines. We started naming tricks and routines that were pretty basic at the time, where our routines now are the best in the world," he said.
"No other whipcrackers can do the routines that Australians can and it probably comes down to Australians have the best leather in the world being kangaroo."
Mr Wicks isn't the only one with strong memories of the Olympics - Josette Hennessy was alongside fellow teens Rebecca Dunn and Michelle Addison when she sang in the Olympic choir, and Katrina Burgoyne was one of six local primary school students, including Sophie Tenney, Kelly Sumner, Eironn Sleath, Sandra Sutcliffe and Abbie Spence, who comprised the Southern Stars section of the Sing 2001 Choir. Nina Wilson and Morgan Kent were part of the prelude.
Ms Hennessy was standing only metres away from running sensation Cathy Freeman when she lit the Olympic cauldron.
"Even though I was only young at the time, the significance of the moment wasn't lost on me. I remember feeling quite emotional at the time, especially when the lit cauldron, which ran along a track, made its way up through the middle of the choir. I think we all knew that this was a never-to-be-repeated moment," Ms Hennessy said.
"All the kids in the choir were instructed to keep our eyes firmly forward for the sake of the cameras, and not be distracted by the Olympic flame. Naturally, we didn't listen."
Ms Hennessy remembers preparing using posted copies of sheet music and cassette tapes, and "multiple trips to Sydney, where we relied upon the kindness of family, friends, and friends-of-friends for travel and accommodation".
Considering we were kids from the bush, it still amazes me that such an opportunity came knocking.Josette Hennessy
She said music teacher Marie Spinks was instrumental in bringing about the experience, forming the Sing 2001 choir, which went on to perform at the 2000 Paralympic and Pacific School Games.
"I was in the soprano section. My vocal cords must have been a lot more supple back then. I'm more of a 'shower singer' these days," Ms Hennessy said.
"When I first heard the Sydney Olympics' 20th anniversary being spoken of, my initial thought was that the maths was out. It can't be 20 years - I'm not old enough, surely. It was an incredible experience for my then sixteen-year-old self and one that I was lucky to share with a number of Gunnedah people.
"One of the biggest takeaways of the experience, for me, was the extent to which people were prepared to go the extra mile - both literal and figurative - to help get us there. Considering we were kids from the bush, it still amazes me that such an opportunity came knocking. Then again, we were lucky to know generous, community-minded people, like Mrs Spinks, who were prepared to build the door."
Katrina Burgoyne also praised the influence of Mrs Spinks, and fellow music teachers Debbie Croft, Margaret Amos and Judith Walpole.
Ms Burgoyne was attending Gunnedah Public School when she signed up for the Sing 2001 choir.
"I sang in the song Under Southern Skies - the song Nikki Webster sang. It was an exciting experience and opened doors for my music. I was only 12 years old at the time and just started playing guitar. Rehearsals were very strict and long with lots of travel to Sydney, but it's a memory I'll hold for the rest of my life," she said.
"I remember our really ugly ponchos and shoes. We were told not to show anyone our costumes. My dad watched the opening from the stadium seats and thought I was Nikki Webster with the curly blonde hair because I didn't show him or tell him anything. I told him, 'We have to keep it a secret'."
Other locals involved in the opening ceremony were Hamish Johns, Belinda Mammen, and Kristy and Michelle Rowe who performed with in the Australian marching band.
As photo manager, Gunnedah's Paul Mathews had a front row seat to all the action that followed as the millennial games played out over the coming weeks.
The opportunity to volunteer was taken up by locals Coral Lorimer, Dave Smart, John Hickey, Colin Burnes, Sharne Kershaw, Donna Stanford. Sharon Newell, Steve Campbell, John Lennan, Carmen McDonald and Sue Durrant, and Tamworth's Chris Morris.
More stories to follow.