RAINBOW PRIDE will be front and centre at Daylesford this March long weekend.
Every year the region is transformed into Queer Country for regional Australia's largest LGBTQIA+ event.
This is the festival's 23rd year and with a new festival director and a world record attempt, it is returning with more colour and flair than ever before.
This year's theme is 'Through the Looking Glass - Alice in Spa Wonderland' and encourages adventure for all characters in whichever way they wish to express themselves.
To name a few highlights, this year there will be parties, a line-dancing dedication to Dolly Parton, Mad Hatter's Dance Party, a Bette Midler tribute show, Twilight Bathing and a ChillOut bush dance.
Health and well-being activities in addition to family-friendly theatre and arts events will be run throughout the weekend, in addition to the annual street parade.
On Saturday, March 7, festival-goers are invited to show support for queer country pride in a world record attempt to create the biggest human rainbow. The aim is for 30,366 people to be involved.
From the United States, new festival director Michele Bauer has worked in theatre events for more than 20 years. She has worked at places such as the Metropolitan Opera, the national opera in Belgium, the Victorian Opera, Sydney Opera and at the Malthouse Theatre. She has also worked in the role of interim CEO for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Ms Bauer moved to Daylesford two years ago and when the previous director resigned, she thought it was a great opportunity to apply for the position.
"It really fit into the move here and what I do for a living. It was quite serendipitous. It seems like in some ways it was really made to be," she said.
"One of the things I love about ChillOut is that the whole town becomes a part of the festival. When people walk into town, to feel welcome, accepted and to feel like you can be yourself feels amazing. It's really a unique experience.
"In some ways, you become a majority in the town, even if it's just for the weekend. And that's an experience many LGBTQIA+ people don't get to have, that they are the majority."
She said the world record attempt would be a collective symbol of solidarity and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people.
"It has been two years since marriage equality but we still have a long way to go. The world's largest human rainbow will be a grand global display, showing that Australians believe in diversity and continue to stand for equality,'' she said.
Ms Bauer would like to move the festival towards more of a health and wellness direction in future.
The 2020 festival ambassador is Katherine Wolfgramme, a proud transgender woman, who will discuss transgender rights and visibility in Australia across the weekend.
Additional workshops and talks will be hosted across the festival, including a fundraiser for Raising Rainbows, which raises awareness and aims to empower young LGBTQIA+ people in regional Victoria.
The festival takes place from March 5-9. More information available at chilloutfestival.com.au
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