The rebirth of Mardi Gras continues with this week’s confirmation of $300,000 worth of parade sponsorship deals.

Tooheys, Red Bull and Volvo this week joined the list of big-name companies to become Mardi Gras sponsors in the 25-year history of the event.

New Mardi Gras co-chair Stevie Clayton said the early signing of the sponsorship deals showed Mardi Gras was still considered one of Sydney’s highest-profile and most influential events.

All the organisations now involved as sponsors realise that the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a hallmark event, owned by the community, Clayton said.

The parade had already secured sponsorship deals with South Sydney City Council and Gaydar, and was in final-stage negotiations with two other major corporate sponsors, co-chair Michael Woodhouse said.

The signings meant the organisation could breathe a bit easier after meeting sponsorship targets set last year. Although the board would still look for smaller sponsors Woodhouse said that all major sponsorship positions had now been filled.

In less positive news, as of yesterday New Mardi Gras had not finalised a public liability insurance policy for the festival.

Woodhouse told the Star the organisation was in regular discussions with insurers and believed the policy would be secured in time.

We’ve provided them with several inches of paper. We’re hoping to hear as soon as possible -“ but apparently this is not unusual, he said.

The festival committee were also waiting from word from the state government on obtaining user-pays exemptions for the parade. Woodhouse said they had had encouraging discussions with staff from NSW premier Bob Carr’s office but did not know when a final decision would be handed down.

Meantime, ticket sales to the 25th Mardi Gras party were also going strong after five days of sales, especially from overseas visitors. New Mardi Gras received requests for 500 tickets from 26 countries in the first few days of sales.

Overall, ticket sales were only 650 less than they were at this point for last year’s event, despite going on sale six months later.

Jock McKeon from New Mardi Gras’ Party Working Group said the tickets were selling much faster than the organisation had expected, particularly from overseas.

We are now getting upwards of 50 emails a day requesting tickets from overseas. The comparison to last year at such an early stage is very uplifting and gives us confidence that we’ll easily achieve our targets, he said.

I think the wonderful times that tourists had during the Gay Games has created a very positive image of Sydney in summer time.

The New Mardi Gras board got itself back in order this week after three resignations and a dispute over a proposed parade name-change. The board vacancies have been filled by Nick Parker, Steph Sands and Patricia Haversham-Quaid, who come from different professional backgrounds.

One event that’s sure to sell out is the Harbour Party -“ this year called Azure 2003. Pre-release premier tickets (complete with $20 early-bird fee) sold out over the internet and public ticket sales will start this weekend. They will be available from 9am this Saturday (18 January) at the Toolshed for $80 plus booking fee.

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