A NUMBER of colourful personalities will descend on Daylesford for the 22nd annual ChillOut LGBTQI+ Festival this weekend.
Farmer Dave Graham, a well-known Australian face, is one of the festival ambassadors this year.
Born and bred in rural Queensland, farmer Dave grappled with his sexuality for years. But after being bashed, he took the plunge and signed up to Big Brother, on which he came out as gay, surprising everyone, including his family.
He pointed to a recent research study commissioned by ANZ bank, who he partnered with for their #EqualFuture campaign, as one of the reasons why the festival continued to be so important.
"84 per cent of LGBTIQ+ community members feel uncomfortable being themselves and being open in certain parts of Australia," he said.
"But being at ChillOut gives people in regional parts of Australia an opportunity to be liberated and in an open and safe environment where they can really be themselves and feel totally accepted by everyone around them," he said.
"Whether it be in the big smoke of Sydney or the beautiful hills of Daylesford, to really embrace ourselves or those around us and really accept all of us for who we are and whichever way we choose to express ourselves is important."
He encouraged people from all walks of life, cultures and religions to attend the festival.
"These festivals are as important as ever. With 84 per cent of people saying they don't feel comfortable to be themselves in the workplace, at functions or on holidays, it is important to continue to overcome these feelings as Australia grows.
"We have to remember that we are welcoming more people to our country but that many are coming from places that aren't as open about sexuality as we are.
"Although we had a past that was built on legal wrongs, our country has done a huge amount of work in righting them and we want to continue that so everyone knows that we are an all-embracing nation and any thought of returning to the times where inequality was the norm and children were treated differently to others because of their sexuality is something that we must always be vigilant to ensure doesn't happen again."
Farmer Dave will judge a dog show at the carnival, before taking the stage as Master of Ceremonies to introduce the performers.
Renowned country singer and winner of 11 Golden Guitars, Beccy Cole, is an ambassador and will perform at this year's festival.
"The last time I was at ChillOut a few years ago, it was such a great, feel good festival. It was a wonderful celebration of diversity and friendly country people," she said.
Cole said it was important to have a regional celebration of the LGBTQI+ community and it was still something that was very much needed.
"It is that presence of inclusion and need so that people know they’re not alone."
Cole revealed her sexuality during a television interview on ABC TV program Australian Story in 2012 and has not looked back since.
"I didn't realise the impact it would have because it started out as a private decision but it has inspired others to be more accepting."
Cole and the all-girl ensemble The Sisters of Twang will perform at this weekend's festival.
"It is a fun show with an all-girl band with a great selection from different records. We have the right mix of old and new."
On playing on stage in an all-girl band, Cole said it was "very empowering".
"Never underestimate how that feels to shine a light on each of those amazing musicians. When I look down at the crowd and see a lot of families, including young kids, I think that they will see a female drummer and know that it is a possibility for them too."
Tribute act Killer Queen will hit the stage at the Carnival on Sunday.
Riding on the Bohemian Rhapsody train, the act will visit Daylesford before touring wider Australia, performing at a corporate function in Russia, then in Las Vegas.
The band has been together in its current form since 2010, headed by frontman John Blunt. Blunt's first introduction to the industry was in a covers band, though his real passion is acting.
"Being a tribute artist is kind of like being an actor. You are acting as somebody else but still singing," he said.
Blunt has gone on to act in a Channel 5 documentary, The Freddie Mercury Story - Who Wants To Live Forever?