One hour before showtime, I was getting worried. Looking out of my Hilton Hotel window over Adelaide’s Victoria Square, I could see a couple of pink cowboy hats, and that was all.
Pride March, the kick-off of Adelaide’s Feast Festival, was due to start, and there were -“ so far -“ very few signs of life. Used as I was to the hours-long, gridlock-causing, marshalling-area circus of Mardi Gras, surely, I thought, this was going to be a flop of dramatic proportions.
Then a small group arrived, from a political party. Phew, I thought. I wasn’t going to have to see the answer to that famous question: What if I threw a Mardi Gras and no-one came?
And others came. Slowly but surely, the square began to fill with marching groups in costume, drag queens, dykes on bikes, families, older people, younger people, hot people, ordinary people.
Still the Sydneysider in me worried. How would they be accommodated? How was this march going to happen, through the main street of a major city, just after peak hour? Less than 30 minutes before the scheduled start, the road wasn’t even closed.
Somehow, with about five minutes to go and people still arriving, the small group of volunteers had marshalled a good-sized, very happy group of paraders into a line, the police arrived, and they were off. It was smaller and less glamorous than Mardi Gras, but felt more inclusive, and more like a protest march. It was fabulous.
The parade picked up in numbers on the way to the opening night party, where participants mixed with performers and viewers. Later, when the party fanned out to different Adelaide bars, the crowd was as friendly as it had been during the march. As it was for the rest of my visit.
Adelaide is accustomed to festivals and its people know how to have a good time, without pomp and ceremony.
Feast 2006 kicks off Friday 10 November and runs until Sunday 26 November. www.feast.org.au