THE town of Lismore has a history of hosting various LGBTI events put on by its out-and-proud locals, earning it the moniker of being the “rainbow region”.
However, its pinnacle event is the annual Tropical Fruits Festival, which saw more than 3000 people attend over new year’s.
All parts of the town were showing its colours, sometimes literally, with motels draped in rainbows and carparks becoming drop-in centres for friends that see each other once a year.
Restaurants were pumping and over at Fruits headquarters at Lismore Showgrounds, barbecues were being fired up for friends and strangers alike.
The showground was Australia’s campest temporary camp ground – and this was before the outfits were busted out, which saw partygoers wearing a different costume for each event.
With a circus theme at this year’s Fruits, clowns were everywhere, as were a pride of 15 loin cloth-clad lions and one tamer to keep an eye on them.
One of the lions, John Quertermous explained why they got involved:
“It’s a group of Sydney boys who have been going for several years now. We wanted to go all together with the circus theme,” he said.
“Denton (Callander) had the great idea and after several trips to Spotlight, weekend fittings, sewing machine and hot glue, we were a pride.
“Ben (Grill) is a brilliant drag queen and makeup artist so he did the faces.”
This year, the community-run Tropical Fruits turned 25 and the milestone was celebrated with a parade, an art gallery exhibition, a New Year’s Eve party, fireworks, a pool party, and even a euphemistically-named “recovery” party, where revellers could top up from the day before.
At the parade, Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell praised the festival and its economic benefits.
“When you come to Lismore, consider staying another day or two,” she said while being flanked by the Prince of Polyester Bob Downe and local drag hero Maude Boat.
Tropical Fruits Chairperson Kenny Beilby believed the event’s success rested with the local business community and the supportive LGBTI community, who came together to work as one.
“Tropical Fruits is volunteer-run and people can contribute in different ways, including setting up the party which also gives them ownership,” he said.
“We try and source all our labour and supplies locally before going elsewhere… The town is hugely supportive.”
Beilby also expressed appreciation that restaurants opened during the once-quiet post-Christmas period, as revellers were arriving earlier to enjoy the community feel.
Photo credits: Miles Heffernan