Our inaugural Queers of Daylesford - Sam O'Connor
This month ahead of ChillOut, we meet our first ever Queers of Daylesford representative, local Sam O'Connor.
Name: Sam O’Connor
Born: Bendigo, Victoria.
Favourite thing about Daylesford: The amazing friends I've made, the places I’ve worked and the feeling of coming home after ever leaving the 'village'.
I first moved to Daylesford in 1997, which so happened to be the inaugural ChillOut Festival. I was only four-years-old and don't really remember much of the first few festivals, but my mum was a volunteer on the committee for a few years (early 2000's) she would help out with booking acts and assisting with the long weekend events, which meant I got the chance to hang back stage with some real classic ChillOut performers like The Topp Twins, 100% Kylie and every drag queen under the sun.
As ChillOut grew year by year with more events, more people, and even more drag queens, I found myself growing with it. Feeling even more comfortable and confident within myself. I started working in the local hospitality industry when I was only just 14 years-old. Cafe after cafe, restaurants, then moving onto the local pubs. It was hard not to make so many new friends by serving all the locals each day and slowly getting to know them and hearing so many different stories about how other people ended up in town or how we probably already had a few mutual friends. Those regular daily customers, that made going to work just that little bit more bearable, have tuned into lifelong friends that I still serve each and every day down at The Farmers Arms Hotel or Cliffy's emporium, which mum owns actually. It has always been a dream of mums to own a cafe/emporium/store, we used to run the old Swiss Mountain Hotel out in Blampied when I was just starting high school. I did my first ever floor shift as a waiter one night with mum and totally screwed up the order, so that was a bad start to now an almost 10 year career in hospitality.
Most of my school mates all left town straight after school and started studying and creating new lives closer to the city, I didn't, and still haven't left. People always ask me why I'm still here working and living, even still being at home with mum and our dog Hugo, but I’ve always been happy here. One day I'll move away and do something different, but being home has allowed me to travel around the world to so many amazing places, but arriving back into Daylesford is always so refreshing each time. A lot of people travel to 'find themselves' or avoid the daily grind of work, I guess I'm doing both.
I knew I was gay for a long time, but it still took me years to bring my first boy home to meet mum, who is also gay, but that still didn't take away from how nervous I was. It was one of the best steps I've ever taken, even being such a simple step. I’m lucky to have the best mother and supportive family which makes things a lot easier. I have friends who have struggled to be themselves with their own family or even just to come out and it makes me so sad that so many LGBTIQ people have to hold back on being themselves. Which is very much found all round rural and country towns.
Just because Daylesford has the 'most gays and lesbians in regional Australia' doesn't make it any easier to just 'pop' out of the closet waving a rainbow flag, singing Cher and holding your lover’s hand down the Main Street. But when you do, you're welcomed with open arms.
This year marks ChillOut’s 20th anniversary and marks my 20th ChillOut! Never have I missed one and I don't plan on missing one anytime soon.
Not too long now until the town quadruples in size, bursting with the most fabulous locals, events and people from all over the country. I've already got my glitter ready to go! HAPPY CHILLOUT DAYLESFORD!