Celebrating 26 years, ChillOut Festival is Victoria’s longest running regional LGBTQIA+ pride festival, and, for that matter, Australia’s largest Queer Country Pride festival. It happens across the Labour Day Long weekend, spanning five days from 9-13 March 2023.
Tickets are already on sale and all the beloved trademark big events are back, including Ballroom Blitz on the Friday night, Bush Dance on the Saturday night, the famous Carnival Day and Street Parade on the Sunday, plus there’s the POOF DOOF Afterparty and 2023 introduces an amazing new femme night Hey Hunny – a saloon lounge event for women and their non-binary and gender-queer friends who identify as gals.
Headlining the festival is Australian opera-pop Eurovision superstar Kate Miller-Heidke, and joining her in a program that includes drag, cabaret, comedy, magic, circus, music, fashion, art and more will be Drag Race Down Under’s Art Simone, ABC’s sunniest weatherman Nate Byrne and Rainbow History TikToker Rudy Jean Rigg.
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There are so many amazing free events to check out: opening nights kicks off on March 9 with a talent-packed event at Daylesford Town Hall, comedian and drag queen Harry Morrissey hosts speed dating, Daylesford Brewing Co turns into a tropical paradise for Margaritaville parties, there’s a cabaret singalong with Leather Lungs on March 11, cocktails, picnic boxes and lawn games with DJ Joey Lightbulb at the CiaoBoy Piazza Party, and of course – the incredible Street Parade on March 12.
Festival favourite, the Ballroom Blitz lights up Daylesford’s wonderful Victoria Park at 8pm on March 10, with DJ Eddie (NSW) warming up the floor with special guests PARKER (TAS), DJ Du Jour (VIC), 90s rock legends The Lost Girls and more.
There’s also performances from cabaret singer Dean Arcuri; the winner of the Comics’ Choice Award at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Tina del Twist; Club Briefs, who are being joined by International DJ Gaff E! from Berlin; and Karen from Finance is doing her own show, as well as appearing on the line-up for Comedy at The Convent, which will also feature Tuck Shop Ladies, Dolly Diamond, Polly Filla, The Leather Lungs and Frock Hudson, with host Aurora Kurth.
The festival takes place in the picturesque surrounds of Daylesford, a charming town at the foot of the Great Dividing Range, in an area known as ‘spa country’. To make the most of the setting, ChillOut festival also has plenty of daytime activities, many of which are al fresco and family friendly.
After a successful debut in 2022, the All Ages Saturday Sound Shell returns, a free event that features performances, market stalls, and an intergenerational panel. You can get your environmental side into action and plant a tree in the ‘Grove of Gratitude’; go horse riding; or enter the non competitive run/walk around the Lake.
There’s also a Pool Party, being hosted by by Frock Hudson, with tunes from DJ Gay Dad and kids under 12 are free, or you can “take the waters” as part of Splish Splash, which is happening at Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa and will include some fabulous burlesque from Harley Dunolly-Lee and a glass of bubbles on arrival.
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Other events include Speed Dating, Queer Life Drawing, Dolly Disco Bingo (which doesn’t involve bingo numbers, just well known tunes from all eras), Granny Bingo (which does involve actual bingo) and all kinds of flamboyant fun, so whether you pop up for an afternoon or stay the whole five days, there’s guaranteed to be something to appeal.
“ChillOut is so much more than a Festival. We are an organisation that has been supporting and bringing together the rural LGBTIQ community, artists and the broader community for 25 years,” says Festival Director Em Ireland, who moved to Daylesford over a decade ago from Fitzroy.
With the festival being such a firm favourite in the hearts of the queer community, it sells out well in advance so you’re advised to best book early and sign up to ChillOut’s subscriber list on their website, so you don’t miss any announcements.
If you can’t wait until March, you can get a sample of what’s to come in Ballarat on Friday December 9, with their special event ‘Solid Gold POOF DOOF’ which also doubles as a Christmas Fundraiser for ChillOut Festival. It’s happening at the Warehouse from 8pm until late.
9-13 March 2023. Head to ChillOut Festival’s website for more info.