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While Ally Paul was an early committee member of the ChillOut Festival, she has trouble recalling exactly how it happened: ‘One minute you’re not and the next minute you’re in!’ She attended the first ChillOut as a stall holder but soon found herself involved in volunteer work and then, before she knew it, she was on the festival committee.

Ally fondly remembers the second year of the festival, the first year it was held at Victoria Park: ‘that first bigger festival was hilarious ... we were just rebels’. It grew a bit more each year. In 2001 the first street parade was introduced. Ally recalls:

It was kind of a brave move. We had our street parade up the main street ... There were drag queens on tractors, people on the back of utes, on ride-on lawnmowers up the main street. People didn’t even know it was happening, we just did it.

During her time on the committee and attending the festival, she has noticed a lot of changes, especially in the attitude of the local community. Initially there was considerable and often overt hostility. Ally remembers ‘the sign-post into Daylesford used to be graffitied with 'Welcome to poof hell'’. Slowly and gradually, and as a direct result of ChillOut and its committee members, attitudes have changed. While ‘people will say that it’s still there, it’s not of the same degree that it was’.

During the early years of the festival, the voluntary committee worked extremely hard doing all sorts of tasks, from organising buses, licences and permits, to pouring drinks, picking up rubbish and cleaning buildings. As Ally remembers:

... we cleaned the hall after the dance party, we set up the whole carnival day ourselves, just a tiny committee, we had hardly any volunteers. We'd just be physically, totally exhausted, we did everything.

It was worth it though to stand backstage on Carnival Day and look out at all the people; ‘you just think’ says Ally proudly, ‘okay, it’s alright I might be exhausted, I might be nearly dead, but look at that’.

After years of dedication, Ally stepped down from the committee feeling burned out and exhausted. ‘For a couple of years’, she admits, ‘I just didn’t even want to know about it’. But after a short break, she found a way to enjoy the festival once again.

Now I just love it and I just feel a wonderful sense of pride, and so proud of the people that are still keeping it going and how wonderful it’s doing.

Being a part of the ChillOut committee and the ChillOut community has been an experience Ally won’t soon forget.

It gave me a lot, it gave me a huge amount. It gave me friends, it gave me confidence, it gave me a lot of things.

In Ally’s opinion, the uniqueness of ChillOut is what makes it such a special and important event – one that is without doubt worthy of the time, energy and emotion that so many people feed into it.

I think ChillOut is special because we're not the city, we never pretend to be the city, we never pretend to be polished and glitzy. I think people love ChillOut because they can just come along and be themselves. There's no need to body wax, and shine, you know, people can come along in their gumboots if they want and nobody's going to look them up and down, or chequered shirts; there's no kind of that sceney stuff. It's very relaxed, I think that's why people like it. They can lie down on the grass with a picnic and just chill, have a great day. That's why it'll always have a place, because it's not Midsumma, it's certainly not Mardi Gras. 

All quotes taken from an interview with Ally Paul, 18 December 2017.