THIS weekend Victoria’s annual ChillOut Festival will celebrate its twentieth anniversary and continue to shine a light on the state’s rural and regional LGBTI community.

Festival Director Merryn Tinkler believes it’s more important than ever for sexual and gender diverse Australians in regional areas to have a pride festival like ChillOut.

“It’s incredibly important to have a regional LGBTI focus,” she said.

“The thing about being part of the community is that in Melbourne there’s an assumption that we all gravitate towards the city, but that’s so not the case.

“We need to be celebrating our regional community as well and changing the perception of regional Australia as being homophobic or discriminatory.”

Taking place in Daylesford over the long weekend, the festival will host a number of its signature events alongside some fresh ones to include queer youth.

Tinkler said there will be a youth-led event that will see LGBTI people from around regional Victoria travel to the festival to celebrate their identities.

“They’ll be coming from Ballarat, Bendigo, Kyneton, and Castlemaine,” she said.

“I think they embody what I think is the essence of the festival – needing to have somewhere in their backyards where they can feel safe identifying and being themselves, and knowing they can be supported.”

To help kick off this year’s festival will be the official ChillOut Welcome Party, a ‘back to the future’ disco party featuring BABBA alongside ‘70s and ‘80s DJs.

On Saturday depending on your mood, you can either swing by the Baywatch Pool Party to enjoy a snag poolside while listening to music, or you can listen to male choir Low Rez’s sweet vocal harmonies in a beautiful performance in the town hall.

And on Sunday there will of course be the annual Pride March in the morning, followed by Carnival Day in the afternoon.

Tinkler said in its twentieth year the festival has wall-to-wall events happening across the long weekend for people who want to stay up late, get up early, or just explore what the region has to offer.

“We just want everyone to have a really fantastic time,” she said.

“Make the most of it and party safe, it’s always such a lovely time.”

ChillOut Festival runs in Daylesford from March 9 – 13. For more information about the festival and its events click here.

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