The weekend is over, the crowds have departed, the organisers are exhausted, and the verdict is in: the inaugural Coast Out Festival was a resounding success. A mix of visitors and locals turned up in their hundreds for the three day gay and lesbian festival in Coffs Harbour.
The festival kicked off with a well-attended cocktail party on Friday night at the Pacific Bay Novotel resort, with Bob Downe on hosting duties. His interaction with the crowd soon revealed just how far the word had spread about CoastOut – guests had come from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and as far away as Adelaide.
In a demonstration of local community support for a festival that had initially been met with a mixed reception, five councillors, including Mayor Keith Rhoades, attended the party. Councillor Denise Knight took the opportunity to “declare the games open”, although CoastOut organiser Todd Buttery told Sydney Star that less-than-expected sporting registrations had meant the festival’s sports focus was smaller than he had hoped, with the planned Saturday and Sunday sporting carnivals combined into one event on the Sunday morning.
It was a minor hiccup in what was otherwise a very successful weekend, with large crowds attending popular events like Drag Out The Dolphins, part drag show, part dolphin show, and the Trouble In Paradise dance party.
The festival’s centrepiece was Saturday’s Fair day, with a diverse line-up of talent on stage to entertain the picnicking masses – up to 1000 people – throughout the day. Tania Doko, Kaye Sera, Dolly Diamond and Luke Gallagher were among the professional performers, but some of the biggest cheers were reserved for the five local contestants battling it out for the chance to perform on stage at next year’s Sydney Mardi Gras Fair Day. The winner, as chosen by public vote, was 19-year-old Coffs drag queen Coco Jumbo, a talented and curvaceous diva in the making.
With an enthusiastic crowd descending on the Coffs Harbour Surf Club on the closing night for the Beach Party Finale, a hoarse-voiced and exhausted Buttery took to the microphone thank everyone for coming – his thanks were returned as the audience gave him three cheers and a standing ovation, leaving the clearly overwhelmed organiser close to tears. While it’s too early for Buttery and co. to give a definitive answer on the future of the festival, beach party hostess Prada Clutch’s closing cry of “See you all next year!” left little doubt as to what the hundreds who’d flocked to Coffs wanted.
Pictured: Organiser Todd Buttery with CoastOut headliner Tania Doko.