FIFTY years ago nobody could have predicted a country town in Victoria would one day host a big gay festival and everybody in the region would be getting behind it.

But that is exactly what has happened with Shepparton’s OUT in the OPEN Festival.

About 181 kilometres north-east of Melbourne in the Goulburn district, OUT in the OPEN is back for another year and will feature almost four days of massive events.

“It’s still in its formation years, we haven’t introduced alcohol to the events, so it’s a family friendly environment and the kids love to get involved,” Festival Director Damien Stevens said.

“There’s 13 events, that’s a lot of work for an entirely volunteer run festival.”

The festival’s signature event Carnival Day on Saturday November 5 will feature 60 market stalls, food vendors, live entertainers, fun attractions, and a live ONE FM radio broadcast, petting zoo and jumping castle included.

Stevens said the festival passes which cost $50 have been mainly sold to people from out of town looking for a country getaway.

“A focus of the festival is helping changes hearts and minds of local people and to change regional attitudes, educating the broader straight community and to celebrate,” he said.

“We worked hard for it to be part of Victoria’s festival calendar. It is progress, but it is clear from researcht that LGBTI people, especially young people living in regional and rural areas have higher rates of self harm.

“This festival is an opportunity for LGBTI people to be proud and celebrate diversity and putting other regional cities on the map.”

OUT in the OPEN kicks off on November 3 with The Gathering at Noble Monks – a fun, warm welcome to Shepparton’s pride and diversity Festival.

The festival will also host two healthcare sector events – a Trans & Gender Diverse Youth Inclusive Practice Training and THRIVE: Connecting ATSI & CALD LGQTI Communities.

Only 80 tickets are available for a two-course dinner with Victoria’s first Gender & Sexuality Commissioner, Ro Allen, who will be in town as part of her regional tour.

On Sunday morning you can wake to the beautiful Earth Meditation Sunday November 6, before a scrumptious big Community Brunch.

Visit www.outintheopen.org.au for more information and tickets to all of the OUT in the OPEN Festival events or contact Festival Director, Damien Stevens on 0418 511 562 or via enquiries@outintheopen.org.au.

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