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Travel Notes

Celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2017, Daylesford’s ChillOut Festival has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the biggest and longest-running Country Queer Pride events in regional Australia, and the largest festival in Hepburn Shire.

The emerald is known for its brilliant green shine, and ChillOut is running with this theme to celebrate 20 years of Queer Country Pride, with the Hepburn Shire transforming into the ‘Emerald Village’ for the long weekend in March – you’ll be cruising down the yellow brick road ready for a fabulous time.

Launching local festivities is Tickle Me Pink at the Glenlyon Estate on Thursday 9 March. Sample some ‘Pink Poofy’ sangria at this gay owned and operated winery, while delighting in some camp entertainment from the likes of Frock Hudson and Christina Andrews.

The Lavish Lunch is back on Friday, offering a chance to indulge in fine foods and drinks at the amazing Belvedere Social, while lapping up some delightful entertainment courtesy of Michael Cormick. This will also incorporate the Worthy Cause auction, giving back to the community by raising funds for VACountry – Victorian AIDS Council’s Bendigo-based service.

The Friday night fun will then kick off at a number of local hot spots starting with the Official ChillOut Welcome Party at the Daylesford Town Hall, which will be lit up in rainbow, as BABBA takes it over in a disco extravaganza sending you right back to the 70s and 80s. Bound to sell out early, this will be a great way to kick off a truly memorable weekend!

The evening shenanigans abound with Drag Bingo at the Perfect Drop, a Welcome Party at the Daylesford Hotel and Melbourne’s cheekiest trivia – Trivial Hirsute – heading to the Hepburn Hotel, followed by an Underbear Party thanks to VicBears.

ChillOut Ambassador Lance Deboyle and Gabriella Labucci are back with The Jewel in the Crown, a fantastic drag competition that sees contestants from around the state battle it out on stage for the titles of ChillOut King and Queen at the Savoia. Cabaret Diva Dolly Diamond brings Friday Night Special to the Grande Hotel, filled with toe-tapping tunes and one hell of a funny evening. The Perfect Drop will be filled with queer entertainment to start the weekend right.

Take in the local sites on Saturday morning with the Nomads as you go on a Scenic Bushwalk and cuppa… but remember to wear sensible shoes! Or if you are more the bookish type, Superstar Di-alysis provides frock-filled fun for kids of all ages at the Annual Rainbow Storytime at the Daylesford Library.

If you are feeling sporty, the afternoon fun continues with VicTennis hosting a picnic and tournament, or you can try your luck on the green at 2 Person Ambrose at the Hepburn Springs Golf Club. For local sites and delectable delights hop on board for Tapas on the Train to Bullarto and back, or an intimate lunch at the Farmers Arms with a tribute to Dusty Springfield featuring Wendy Stapleton.

Dive into the pool at the Baywatch Pool Party or get into the Latin swing with a Tropical Brazilian BBQ at the Belvedere Social. Male Pop Choir Low Rez sing up a storm at the Town Hall, and local storyteller Anne E Stewart takes you through the gay history of Daylesford in an intimate theatre in the lounge-room experience.

The Perfect Drop has a Saturday afternoon set to burst, as Sexy Galaxy and Frock Hudson bring you an afternoon of cheeky fun at the local inspired ChillOut-themed five-course lunch. Or you can relax and enjoy some Gin and Games in the sun or outdoor Trivia shenanigans.

Get ready to dosey doe, as the Annual Bush Dance is back Saturday evening at the Town Hall. Always a ChillOut favourite, the Bush Dance is the real country dance, so bring your boots and checked shirts to look the part.

The Daylesford Hotel goes off with all free events across the weekend including the Saturday and Sunday Yard Party featuring DJs Debra Walters and DJ Kista. They also are making use of their now famous Drag Bar with iconic queer entertainment across the weekend.

The Wizard of Oz will screen at the Daylesford Cinema and LOL Big Gay Comedy Night brings the laughs with Geraldine Hickey, Adam Richards and more at the Anglican Church Hall. Cabaret comedian Dean Arcuri brings some friends along for a fabulous evening of entertainment in FURRLESQUE, or head to ladies band night, CREAM at the Hepburn Hotel with Rosie Burgess, The Sheilas of the 70s featuring Monique Brumby, Rebecca Barnard and The Party Girls.

Sunday morning you won’t want to miss the ChillOut Parade as community groups from far and wide, locals and other friendly faces take over the main street and share their country pride.

Sunday’s highlight is of course the always wonderful ChillOut Carnival with main stage highlights including Killer Queen – arguably the best Queen Tribute band in Australia, Blue House and Asian Envy. Other fun on the day is gumboot throwing, forums, stalls, family entertainment, dogs shows, DJ stage, 5 bars including a special ChillOut cocktail bar and much, much more.

Sunday night’s Official Closing Party sees POOF DOOF take over the town hall in a dance party that’ll have you dusting off your ruby slippers and dancing your way down the yellow brick road. Celebrate women of rock as Michelle Parsons and band pay tribute like no other at the Hepburn Hotel. Celebrate the music and life of Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli at the Horvat’s Supper Club or join the Emerald Party at Perfect Drop, you’ll be green with envy if you miss it!

As Monday is a public holiday, the weekend isn’t over with some wonderful local ways to wind down with Kaye Sera’s Great Big Bush Bash or the Daylesford Hotel’s Recovery Lunch, or you can discover the hedonistic world of Norman Lindsay in the town in which he lived, Creswick. And for the younger community, join the free Masquerade Fantasy Youth Event at the Daylesford Town Hall – a substance-free event for under 26 year-olds only with DJs all afternoon.

Michael Parker will be exhibiting his Silhouette Series at the Stony Creek Gallery, and don’t forget to drop into the fabulous 20-year exhibition at the Daylesford Museum that runs across the weekend with loads of memorabilia from the last 20 years of ChillOut. The official launch of the exhibition happens a week earlier on Friday 3 March, followed by Drag Karaoke at the Daylesford Hotel.

The 20th Anniversary ChillOut Festival runs 9 - 13 March 2017. For more information, visit: www.chilloutfestival.com.au for details.

Image: courtesy of the ChillOut Festival

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