THE small north-east Victorian town of Yackandandah rallied around the region’s LGBTI community at the Spring Migration festival over the weekend.

Now in its 10th year, the festival saw LGBTI people from nearby regional centres like Albury-Wodonga and as far away as Sydney and Adelaide flock to the town for the weekend’s events.

Local couple Gary Hayward and Andy Stevens (pictured above) have run the festival on a shoestring budget since its inception, and told the Star Observer they rely on the participation and generosity of the community to make Spring Migration work.

In previous years Hayward and Stevens have run a bigger festival with large, ticketed dance parties in nearby Beechworth, but the large workload has led the two to downsize in recent years.

The festival now partners with local businesses and organisations for events like the Friday and Saturday night drag shows in Yackandandah’s local pub, the Star Hotel.

“We pay the performers now but we don’t charge anyone — we pay half and the pub pays half,” Stevens said.

“It’s smaller, but it’s more intimate, and there were a lot of locals.”

Local drag performer Amanda Monroe and festival organiser Gary Hayward

Local drag performer Amanda Monroe and festival organiser Gary Hayward

Spring Migration’s other major event is a community market on the Sunday, and this year the local Lions Club agreed to make their own monthly market part of the festival, attracting over 2000 people on the day.

More of the town’s small businesses get on board each year to support Spring Migration, with restaurants and cafes running extended opening hours to cater to festival-goers.

“Last year Gary (Hayward) was saying there weren’t many places that were open at night, so we said we’d open at night to give [festival-goers] an extra option for places to go for dinner,” said Sharna Mathewson, co-owner of local cafe Bean ‘n’ Brew.

“It’s the 10th year now, so I think that everyone knows about it and they welcome it and welcome all the influx of people that come to the area.”

While locals may have grown used to the festival, Hayward said it still seemed to be a surprise for a group of men who came into the Star Hotel on Saturday night for a buck’s party, not expecting to find a room full of gay men and a drag queen performing on stage.

It apparently didn’t take long for the group to relax and join in on the festival, and Hayward explained they were soon dancing with the rest of the crowd:

“It added to the eclectic mix — so much was going on.”

© Star Observer 2022 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, be sure to visit daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.