Much is changed for this year’s Mardi Gras season, but the annual fair day celebration promises to be as fun as always.

New Mardi Gras board members are anticipating that as many as 60,000 people will descend on Victoria Park on Sunday 16 February. With plans for a festival launch event still to be determined, this year’s fair day may give many Sydneysiders their first taste of Mardi Gras excitement.

The genesis of fair day stretches back as far as 1979, as Graham Carbery showed in his published history of Mardi Gras. The first Gay Alternative Fair took place in Hyde Park in 1979 and drew a crowd of about 700. The event grew rapidly during the 1990s, attracting 3,000 in 1991 and some 20,000 in 1995. It moved from Glebe to its current location in 1998 -“ despite a suggestion last year by South Sydney Council to move the event out to Sydney Park, Alexandria.

Fair day is a much loved event of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras season and New Mardi Gras volunteers have been working hard to ensure the 2003 fair day is a memorable and fun day, says New Mardi Gras co-chair Stevie Clayton. We already have more than 100 stalls booked for the day, with registrations still coming. I would urge community-based organisations and other key groups to not delay registration if they want to take part in fair day.

Plans for the big gay day are still in development, but New Mardi Gras co-chair Michael Woodhouse says the aim is to offer things for people to do and enjoy once they get to Victoria Park.

We want to give people a reason to hang around once they have checked out the stalls and grabbed a bite to eat, he says.

To this end, some of the entertainment has been taken off the main stage and will rove around the park.

Our recent call for roving performers has attracted a wide variety of entertainers, but we are still keen to hear from more people, says Woodhouse.

Other entertainment will come courtesy of the dyke music collective Scooter, who will be running a stage all day. Instructors from a local dance studio will be out and about encouraging people to try different forms of dancing, while the fashion police will also be on hand.

Fair day favourites like Doggy-wood and the Miss and Mr Fair Day competitions will also be making a return.

The fair day action begins at 9:30am and goes through until 5:30pm. The Route 69 bus will ferry passengers between Oxford Street and Victoria Park. Picnic-makers are advised to arrive early to snare themselves the best shady spots.

Applications for fair day stalls close on Friday 31 January. See the Mardi Gras website for more information.

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