Each of the major dates in the Mardi Gras calendar has a distinctive flavour. While the parade and party are creatures of the night, Fair Day conjures images of school fetes and sunny Sunday strolls in the park. Except it’s a bit queer.

This being the Sydney gay and lesbian community, you are guaranteed to run into an assortment of friends, acquaintances, ex-lovers and one night stands. So dress well. Last year many took their lead from the brief Madonna-led Wild West revival; sunflowers and cowboy hats were the order of the day.

On Fair Day, you see children pushed in prams and dogs on leashes, girls holding hands and drag queens with parasols. The organisers hope to celebrate that diversity.

I think that Fair Day is always fun for all the family, says Mary Mitchelhill, a member of the Fair Day committee, including dogs and children.

A special bus service will be provided on the day from Oxford Street to Victoria Park. Route 69 will run from 10:30am to 6:30pm via Flinders, Foveaux and Elizabeth Streets and Central Station. Mitchelhill hopes this will make the 2002 Fair Day more accessible for a greater number of people.

Once at Victoria Park, make sure you stop by the main stage for a variety of live bands and preview performances (including Sherry Vine and Joey Arias, direct from New York). The annual Mr and Ms Fair Day competition will be hosted in the early afternoon by Verushka Darling. The contest has three criteria -“ general knowledge (with a heavy emphasis on camp), creativity (impromptu drag outfit design) and an eight-step dance routine. It will be adjudicated by a panel of celebrity judges, including Arias and Vine.

Another addition to Fair Day this year is Sideshow Alley. This will feature a titanic slide (not for the faint of heart), those laughing clowns with the gaping mouths and a jumping castle -“ for adults. The attractions will benefit community organisations.

The more hirsute members of the community, and their admirers, will find themselves welcome in Bearzarre, a down-home, good-time bear pleasure area, according to Ed Tobin, the Harbour City Bears coordinator. Bearzarre will feature a Bear Hug Booth, a Bear Ball Toss and Wheel of Fetish. The major prizes are -“ what else -“ teddy bears.

If you are looking for a temporary respite, there are a number of options. People under 26 will have Generation Youth, a dedicated safe space next to Sideshow Alley. It has been jointly organised by Cellblock, Fun and Esteem and Twenty 10. There will be open invitation DJing, temporary tattoos and a workshop making costumes and masks for the Twenty 10 float in the 2002 Parade. This is the first time Mardi Gras has given us a dedicated youth space, said Gareth Gillham, one of the Twenty 10 organisers. We want it to be a safe space to meet other young people.

Another option is the Lounge Tent, with comfy lounge seating and a program of drag king performances, an appearance by Queer Comedy All Stars alumnus Shelley Silberman and a two-hour set by DJ Garry T.

There is also the chill tent provided by ACON. It will be furnished with an abundance of beanbags and oversized pillows.

ACON will be very active at Fair Day this year. We are taking over more ground area than ever before, says ACON CEO Stevie Clayton. It really demonstrates the important role that our services can and does play in the gay and lesbian community.

One of the promotional tools in the latest ACON safe-sex campaign is frisbees emblazoned with the logo Get It On, very appropriate for a Sunday afternoon in the park. Safe Sex Sluts will hand out condoms and lube. ACON will also be conducting an anonymous survey on women’s sexual behaviour and health (SWASH). The information collected can contribute to the design of health education -¦ the training of health care providers and in community lobbying, Clayton said.

There will be a raffle hosted by Mitzi Mackintosh, and stalls for the Positive Living Centre, Fun and Esteem and the Anti-Violence Project. The latter is hosted jointly with NSW Police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Officers.

Mary Mitchelhill was not kidding about the kids and animals. Kidsland will feature Rubi the clown, storytelling and a free circus workshop.

The Miss Puppy competition recognises canine excellence. The finals are held on the Main Stage, so a few trial runs in front of the neighbours might be advisable, to get your dog used to crowds. During the day, Doggywood offers caf?uality food, grooming and dress-ups for your lucky pet.

When the sun goes down, the Sunday outing is just beginning. Only a stone’s throw down Parramatta Road, Caesars Bar is hosting the official Fair Day Tea Dance. There is a $5 donation on the door to benefit the Mardi Gras Public Donations fund. Let your eyes adjust from natural to artificial light, and dance the night away.

Who knows -“ you might add someone to your list of friends, acquaintances, ex-lovers or one-night-stands for next year.

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