A day of country fun

 ChillOut Street Parade

ChillOut Street Parade


From the very beginning, it was important to the organisers of ChillOut that the festival embrace and showcase its country origins.

The women vs men Tug-o-War has been a popular feature of ChillOut Carnival Day for a number of years and embodies the country spirit of the festival.

‘We were country’, inaugural ChillOut chair Leanne Spain comments, ‘we wanted to identify ourselves with a country event’.[1] Former ChillOut committee member Ally Paul was at the first ChillOut as a participant and she remembers that ‘it was a fun, daggy day’.[2] 

I think people love ChillOut because they can just come along and be themselves ... people can come along in their gumboots if they want ... or chequered shirts.[3]

Foundation committee member Margaret[4] remembers that ‘later on we had dancing demonstrations, clogging and we had music ... the first year was very much the stalls and the games’.[5] Over the years the festival has continued to hold true to its country origins, embracing the daggy, relaxed and fun while at the same time attracting international recognition with world-class acts and performances.

 ChillOut Dog Show

ChillOut Dog Show

The festival incorporates traditional country fair-type events with its own unique twist. Gumboot, handbag and stiletto tossing; dog shows where dogs are judged on how much they look like their owners; games such as three-legged races and tug of war; as well as bush walks, horse rides, golf competitions and more.

One of the perennially popular features on the ChillOut program of events is the bush dance. For current committee member Kaye Bricknall, it was one of the most memorable aspects of her first ChillOut:

I do remember going to the bush dance at The Palais. I was just blown away. I mean you’ve got a lot of big sweaty gay men jumping up and down ... it was just so much fun.[6]

Former committee member Paul Kidd has similar memories and cites the bush dance as his favourite event of the festival:          

It is so completely chaotic and mental. All these people who have absolutely no idea how to dance, me included, trying to do these complex dances, and all the ridiculous kind of clichéd country outfits that people wear. That’s the really camp moment of ChillOut for me.[7]

The event’s popularity has promoted festival organisers to include an underage, kids’ bush dance in the festival for the first time in 2018.

 ChillOut Bush Dance

ChillOut Bush Dance

From its earliest days, ChillOut was a festival that celebrated country pride in a way that was inclusive of all members of the community, from children to seniors. This remains an essential aspect of ChillOut today. Miss Di Alysis, alter ego of Max Primmer, a former ChillOut committee member, is one of the readers at the Daylesford library rainbow story time. At the 2017 ChillOut, Miss Di Alysis read to 65 eager parents and kids. It was an emotional experience for Max, who comments:           

I get all teary when I get there because the kids just sit around and are absolutely in awe of this six-foot drag queen sitting there reading a story.[8]

ChillOut festival director Merryn Tinkler embraces the family atmosphere of the festival and knows that the future viability of ChillOut depends on engaging with the next generation.

There are a lot of families, there are a lot of non-queer families that come, straight families that come, because they know that it’s a family-friendly atmosphere. We always have stuff for kids and young families ... we want people to know that they can come and just dag around with us, and just have fun, just chill out.[9]

Paul Kidd grew up in a country town and recognises the wider importance of having an event in the country that embraces country pride.

Queer people – certainly of my generation and early generations ... have a really problematic relationship with country towns because country towns have traditionally been seats of homophobia ... ChillOut’s been about breaking down those stereotypes and showing that you don’t have to be in an inner city environment to celebrate queer pride, you can do that in a country area.[10]

As the oldest continuing rural gay event in Australia, ChillOut has been a pioneer in celebrating country pride and continues to pave the way for future generations of LGBTI people growing up in rural Victoria.


[1] Interview with Leanne Spain, 11 January 2018.

[2] Interview with Ally Paul, 18 December 2017.

[3] Interview with Ally Paul, 18 December 2017.

[4] Name changed at individual’s request.

[5] Interview with Margaret, 18 December 2017.

[6] Interview with Kaye Bricknall, 16 January 2018.

[7] Interview with Paul Kidd, 18 December 2017.

[8] Interview with Max Primmer and Renee Ludekens, 18 December 2017.

[9] Interview with Merryn Tinkler, 16 January 2018.

[10] Interview with Paul Kidd, 18 December 2017.