A year on from the demise of Sleaze Ball, New Mardi Gras (NMG) CEO Michael Rolik has hailed the inaugural Big Gay Weekend as a success.

Rolik told the Star Observer that participating venues along Oxford St sold more than 3000 wristbands at $10 each over the weekend, with $5 from each sale going towards NMG’s work.

It’s estimated that around 6000 people went out on the strip during the weekend, compared to 4000 at the last Sleaze Ball, where turnout was the lowest on record.

Rolik was tightlipped about how much money the Big Gay Weekend raised for NMG, but told the Star that financially the event met all expectations.

“We’re really happy about the weekend, there was a great buzz around the venues especially on Friday,” he said.

“For every dollar we put in, we got $2 back and made 50 percent return on the investment. Compare that with last year where we spent $280,000 on Sleaze and made a $30,000 loss.”

The wristband gave revellers unlimited access to Stonewall, ARQ, Nevermind, the Colombian and the Midnight Shift, amongst others, during the October long weekend.

“The whole wristband idea and getting people out early on the Friday night worked really well,” Rolik said. “It’s always going to be a challenge to change people’s behaviour to come out at 5 or 6pm, so maybe next time we might kick things off a bit later.”

Rolik hoped to see a return of the Big Gay Weekend for 2012 but said NMG had an open mind when it came to planning next year’s long-weekend fundraising activities, that may include a return of some elements of Sleaze Ball.

“We’re going to recommend to the NMG board a return of the weekend for next year but I think a lot of people still have some nostalgia for Sleaze Ball,” Rolik said.

“We never said that we’d not do Sleaze Ball again. It was simply trying something a little bit different.

“With the Big Gay Weekend we’d want to see how we can build on the success we’ve had this year and who knows there could be a bit of Sleaze factor there.”

By ALEX PITTAWAY

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