Donning rainbow beads and carrying milk crates, thousands of spectators came out on Saturday night to watch the Mardi Gras parade.
Despite the criticisms lobbed at New Mardi Gras over the past few weeks, spectators seemed to enjoy the show as almost 10,000 participants on 135 floats made their way up the pink mile.
Paying homage to gays and lesbians throughout the history of the world, floats featuring ancient Egyptians, Marie Antoinettes, and more than a few George Michael impersonators made their way up Oxford St before the cheering crowds.
There were also the less history-oriented floats — which received both admiration and condemnation as spectators paid close attention to who had been given clearance to march.
Gays for Green Energy peddled along, homemade turbines trailing behind. The Mer-bears — equal parts Ariel to bearded boi — were crowd favourites, as were Lifesavers With Pride and the Femme Guild’s ode to Rosie the riveter.
But there was a healthy dose of scepticism towards some of the corporate, political and wider interest floats, including Climate Action Newtown and the Black Dog Insitute, included in the line-up, while Animal Liberation remained sidelined.
“The parade was at its exuberant best this year,” New Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik maintained.
“There’s a whole new generation of enthusiastic creative parade groups that give us great hope for the future. If you want a great example of community participation, look no further than Mardi Gras. I spoke with many visitors from overseas and the message was clear — Mardi Gras is the best gay pride event in the world.”
Police were pleased with the event’s success — 35 people were arrested, on charges from drug possession to offensive behaviour, down on the estimated 45 people arrested last year.
New Mardi Gras has not commented on whether this meagre downturn in crime was attributed to the change in the parade’s starting area, which was moved two blocks up from Hyde Park, or whether this will become standard practice.
The Carnival thrown for parade participants kept spirits blazing.
“Throughout the event the atmosphere was undeniable,” Rolik said. “From friends watching the entertainment of the Showring or dancing the night away in the Dome, that unique buzz of the parade stayed alive.”
For those not in the parade, the closest they could come to an after-party was Sunday’s Harbour Party.
Rolik called the turnout “exceptional” – a feat, considering the rain.
“There’s no party in the world like it, and yesterday it seemed there was nothing that would stop the crowd from having a great evening.”

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