BRISBANE’S Big Gay Day will take over the streets for the 14th time tomorrow.

The event will see Fortitude Valley’s Alden St transform into a big and gay party on Sunday — and all for a great cause. It has raised around $250,000 for grassroots LGBTI community groups, and its success rests with hundreds of volunteers and three talented operators that built it from nothing.

Kyle Hogan created the event in 2000, and one year later he was joined by Maree Brown as his erstwhile deputy. After Hogan moved on, Brown took the reins and in turn she then deputised Ruth Gardner, who is the current chief. They came together to chat about what Big Gay Day means to them and why they think the event has remained a success.

Hogan tells the Star Observer how it all began: “Originally when we (with his partner at the time) had conceptualised the day, I sought support from (then-Wickham Hotel co-owner) Grape Group director Bob Roberts. He was was great and green-lighted the event to enable to hotel to have a better connection to the community.

“The first one was a gold coin donation which went to Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association, from memory, and then the event grew and grew as did the support for charities. The next thing I knew we had a queue a 400m and we were at capacity for Rogue Traders in 2006.

“From the second year, it was Maree and  all this time on she is still involved, more recently as a volunteer,” Hogan adds.

“It would never have been such a success if it wasn’t for how we have all worked together and how we learned from each year. Just quietly it is great to see Ruth move from being a performer in year two, to smashing it as the current boss of gay day.”

Maree Brown has been the longest consistent piece of the Big Gay Day puzzle.

”I have worked at every BGD from the second one. By the time the second came around, I helped Kyle with planning of the event and did every year until his departure from the Wickham 2006,” she says, after looking back on the years.

“We were quite the team and I haven’t experienced a working relationship like it since. Both us managed to run 6 years of BGD and stay friends,” Brown adds with a cheeky smile.

She also shared her favourite time of the event: “I love the night before, when the stage and street are all set for the morning but the street is so quiet.”

Big Gay Day Summer Street Party this Sunday: Photo Credit: Facebook.

Big Gay Day Summer Street Party this Sunday. Photo Credit: Facebook.

Despite the changes, including the event now being run by the hotel arm of Coles, part of Wesfarmers, Brown says that it has kept true to itself: “The event has evolved as all things must over the years. The event looks a bit different but still feels the same.”

She adds that this is not by accident: “For me it’s all about the planning, you can’t have a great party on any scale without it.”

Brown and Hogan left the talking of the current operations to the current chief, including what makes the event the single biggest day fundraiser for the LGBTI community in Brisbane. Gardner immediately tips her hat to their legacy.

“My secret is that I have been trained by one of the other event organisers, Maree Brown and she still is involved in the lead up as priceless source of event history and advice,” Gardner says.

“I am very grateful for that and for the sound knowledge and event archives she has left me with and be able to assist on event day for the four years previous.”

Gardner also sees some stand out acts that hit the stage as being representative of a kind of legacy and acknowledges this could not have happened without the support of the venue owners.

“It is fantastic that we have the support to deliver this event for the community year in, year out. It really is a team effort across the entire group and many people look forward to participating every year,” she says.

“The event has probably gotten bigger at various stages each year due to the event organiser’s vision. Kyle had a massive year with Rogue Traders, Maree with the 10th anniversary and Kelly Rowland and I am hoping to follow in their footsteps with Boy George.”

In talking about what goes into the day, Gardner hints that the huge investment goes beyond money: “The budget is significant enough to produce a few grey hairs and we engage around 80 staff and volunteers from our hotel group and community.

Big Gay Day 2014 Line up includes Boy George

Big Gay Day 2014 Line up includes Boy George

“There is all sorts of infrastructure to pull in like mobile beer reticulation, additional refrigeration and even (extra) staff uniforms.”

Gardner also highlighted the bumping-in requirements of closing down a street as well as staging and sound.

But she says it is all worth it, and when her legs ache as night falls and she pauses to look and see the event pumping, it is something special.

“That’s when the real fun starts. It is worth it though to see everyone enjoying themselves,” she says.

Hogan echoed Gardner about the joy the event brings to him: “I feel very proud to have created such a successful event. This is nothing compared to standing upstairs and looking down at the packed street and seeing people absolutely going off having a ball some all costumed up and some with barely anything at all.”

Main Photo from left: Ruth Gardner, Kyle Hogan and Maree Brown. Photo credit: Miles Heffernan

INFO: Big Gay Day is tomorrow (Sunday 9 March) at the Hotel Wickham and features a huge line-up including Boy George, Cazwell and Luciana. Their website is here. Their Facebook page is here.

RELATED: This year’s Big Gay Day is the biggest party yet.

 

© Star Observer 2014 | For the latest in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also pick up the next Star Observer monthly magazine October 16 or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.