More than 70,000 people braved scorching 33-degree heat at Victoria Park on Sunday to enjoy the first big event of this year’s Mardi Gras Festival, Fair Day.

The humid weather was no deterrent for the GLBTI community members, their supporters, families and pooches who flocked to the park. Many gave generously at the gates as they entered, with early fundraising figures exceeding New Mardi Gras’ expectations.

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the turn-out for Fair Day. It was the perfect way to begin this sensational Mardi Gras season,” New Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik said.

“The atmosphere was electric, with people from all parts of the community joining us for a great day in the park. We want to thank the community for their support — the amount raised was well above expectations and Fair Days in recent years.

“We’re confident our line-up of Mardi Gras events over the next two weeks will be just as successful, culminating in a spectacular Parade and sensational Party.”

A record number of community stalls — around 220 in total — showcased a variety of queer and queer-friendly businesses and community groups, while around 250 volunteers gave their time to help bring the event together.

On the main stage, local queer duo Garcon Garcon previewed tracks from their forthcoming EP, drag queen Courtney Act performed highlights from her Mardi Gras show Maybe She’s Born With It, and pop singers Zoe Badwi and Paris Wells had the crowd up and dancing.

Elsewhere, the Doggywood stage drew a large and vocal crowd as a selection of fashionable pooches and their owners battled it out for the title of best-dressed mutt at Dulcie’s Dog Show. Later in the afternoon, attention turned to the Gaydar

Garden Lounge, with punters packing in before many headed to Newtown’s Bank Hotel for the official Fair Day after-party.

The Sydney Convicts again took out the annual Team Sydney tug-of-war, defeating the Wett Ones.

There was a noticeable police presence at the licensed event, but Sydney Police reported no arrests were made.

“Private security kicked a few out for getting a bit unruly and intoxicated, but that was the extent of it. We had a significant deployment of Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers, and it was a good community day, as expected,” Newtown Police Superintendent Darren Bennett said.

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