If ever there was a ray of hope in drought-affected Crookwell, the generous splash of $25,000 in businesses by 65 Macarthur school staff during last weekend's visit was it.
In a bid to support a country town doing it tough, Rosemeadow Public School from Campbelltown left the city for its annual conference and booked out local accommodation and supported shops, pubs, cafes, an alpaca farm and the public school with prizes to those who spent the most.
Crookwell businesses were buzzing on Monday morning after taking $12,500 of the total in just two hours on Saturday, Upper Lachlan Small Business Association chair Susan Reynolds said.
Lindner Socks put $2260 into its till after making little in recent months.
"It's been much quieter through the drought and with the fires, people haven't been travelling as much. Normally we get a lot of people travelling through in the school holidays, but not this time," Lindner Socks owner Gisela Lindner said.
Mrs Lindner's son Andrew kept the shop open on Saturday with his wife Lucy and a helper and showed the group how the socks are made.
It was Lucy Lindner who arranged for Crookwell businesses to stay open longer for the group.
"The businesses that stayed open later on Saturday were rewarded," Ms Reynolds said.
The group also spent $500 at Ms Reynolds' alpaca farm and one teacher bought a pair of cowboy boots in town just for the experience!
"What incredible generosity. That money will cover my next feed bill," Ms Reynolds said.
Ms Reynolds is writing a letter to thank the school on behalf of the business association.
"Everyone is just over the moon with record takings for Saturday and it's wonderful to hear from folks in town that they've got that positive energy back they've been lacking," she said.
Rosemeadow Public School staff also visited Arcadia, Red Dirt Apparel, Mad Hatters and Crookwell Footwear, among others.
There was a prize of $1000 in school resources and dinner up for grabs to the group of staff who spent the most and some went as far to pay for locals' shopping at IGA.
They had to show their most expensive and creative purchases to win and some held up $260 Thomas Cook boots and Akubras, Crookwell Public School principal Michael Whittington said.
Crookwell Public opened its doors to Rosemeadow Public for its conference and received $9,250 in return. Rosemeadow paid $50 per head for the Crookwell Public P&C to provide lunch and afternoon tea, donated $6000 for teaching resources, as well as Lego and backpacks.
"It's such an incredible act of generosity from our city cousins. They would have also spent money on fuel and coffee," Mr Whittington said.
Mr Whittington was asked to talk to Rosemeadow Public staff about how the drought had affected the town and school.
He told them of how several families unable to find work had moved away in the past 18 months.
"Although we're not doing it nearly as tough as those out west, it's the worst I've seen in my 26 years as a teacher," he said.
Rosemeadow Public principal Paul Hughes estimated his staff spent between $25,000 to $30,000 in Crookwell over the weekend.
"With drought and bushfires, people felt helpless. So the timing was perfect that they could contribute," Mr Hughes said.
"We took away how sincere the shopkeepers were, not just that we spent money but that we supported them. People were genuinely grateful."
Mr Hughes said the experience was one they'd likely replicate for a future conference and said one member of staff was already coming back next weekend to exchange an Akubra too small for her husband!
Mr Whittington hopes to build a sister city relationship with the school to allow students to travel and visit.