Australia and New Zealand 4 – Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (3)

The mornings after

The following day offers little reprieve, with the lanes closed behind Flinders Street, and thousands gathering for a cleansing ale and more dancing. Recovery parties continue through Sunday and into Monday, so be sure to pace yourself if you want to keep going. A recent addition to the hectic schedule is an official morning- after party at Luna Park, Sydney’s iconic harbourside amusement park; ticket-holders get free access to rides from 10am to noon (the public’s response to the dodgem-car- riding, carousel-whirled drag queens is quite a sight) and a dance party attracting around three thousand revellers in the sound-insulated Big Top from noon to 8pm.

Other Mardi Gras events

During Mardi Gras, there are several other important annual events that are loads of fun to attend. Fair Day is a free festival usually held on Sunday three weeks before the parade, in Victoria Park, just across from Glebe Point Road and next door to Sydney University. The big day, attended by up to eighty thousand people, kicks off at 10am and finishes at 8pm. In between, there’s every type of outlandish activity you could wish for, from outrageous dog shows to handbag-throwing championships, plus live music from an outdoor stage, a dance party in the Lounge Tent, face-painting and bouncy castles for kids, stands representing gay and lesbian organizations and charities, and bars and gourmet food stalls. It’s a great place to socialize and to see what Sydney’s queer community (plus family, friends and pets) looks like in the light of day.

Two weeks prior to the parade, at the Victoria Park Swimming Centre, also in Victoria Park, the Swimming Carnival is an alcohol-free pool party that takes place in the evening and features plenty of live entertainment, drag shows and Esther Williams-style water ballet. It’s a big queer splash and you’ve never seen so many blow-up water toys in your life. The Swimming Carnival was cancelled in 2006 – check the NMG website for an update. Closer to Mardi Gras, Azure, the outdoor harbourside party that traditionally takes place on the Sunday prior to the parade (4pm-midnight), is an incredibly popular event, with the AUSS140 tickets usually selling out the day they go on sale (mid-January). If you’re in Australia at the time (MCA Tix won’t post tickets overseas), you can get them from MCA Tix at 13 Craigend St, in Kings Cross; otherwise, try the classified section of the Pinkboard  or eBay . The good news is it’s worth the hassle: you get to dance with five thousand people under the setting sun on Sydney Harbour, with views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from the vantage point of Lady Macquarie’s Chair, next to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Finally, there’s the QueerScreen Mardi Gras Film Festival, which offers a fortnight of all the best local and international queer films at screens in inner-city Newtown and Paddington, with opening night at the gorgeous Art Deco State Theatre in the city. The festival produces a comprehensive movie guide each year, and many sessions sell out, so you’d do well to book tickets or passes in advance.

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