Australia’s gay and lesbian community staked its claim for marriage equality at the most political Mardi Gras Parade seen in a number of years.

The threat of wet weather did little to dampen the spirits of the almost 8500 people who marched in Saturday’s Parade, with messages about same-sex marriage equality at the forefront of some 15 of the 135 floats.

Mardi Gras Parade Photos 1: CLICK HERE
Mardi Gras Parade Photos 2: CLICK HERE
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But visiting pop star Rihanna was a no-show on stage at the post-parade Party, despite her planned appearance being announced to viewers at the conclusion of Foxtel’s Parade coverage.

Rihanna’s decision not to appear on stage was all the more frustrating for partygoers. Some sources suggest she never left her vehicle after arriving at the party, others claimed she mixed in the VIP area but declined to appear onstage with tourmate Calvin Harris during his headline DJ set in the Hordern Pavilion.

The singer took to her Twitter following her concert at Acer Arena that evening, posting that she “gotta muster up some energy 2 go flash my tits for beads”, and tagging the post #mardigras.

Drag queen Courtney Act later berated Rihanna for her no-show, tweeting her: “is it true u cancelled? 15,000 gays r waiting for u”.

Mardi Gras Party Photos 1: CLICK HERE
Mardi Gras Party Photos 2: CLICK HERE
Mardi Gras Party Photos – The Shows: CLICK HERE

Earlier in the evening, a larger than expected crowd — estimated at around 300,000 — braved intermittent showers to watch the Parade, led for the first time by a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people performing a traditional smoking ceremony.

Closely following was a float bearing a selection of high profile ‘gay heroes’, including gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and lesbian comedian Lily Tomlin, who sat in the back of a car dressed in a spectacular Priscilla-esque rainbow dress.

The Parade’s strong marriage equality theme came to a head at the halfway mark when a large number of floats carried the message of marriage equality. Highlights included drag kings dressed in white tuxedos dancing on towering stilts, drag queens in massive wedding cake dresses, a golden carriage pulled by six human ‘horses’ dressed in fetish rubber gear, and oversized effigies of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott.

Gillard, resplendent in a wedding dress, bore the speech bubble, “62% of Aussies support equality, Tony…”. Abbott, in budgie-smugglers, replied in a speech bubble, “Yeah, well, shit happens, Julia…”.

Police arrested 18 people during the evening who have been charged with 25 offences, including affray, assault, offensive conduct and malicious damage. Police also reported they had removed a significant amount of alcohol from people drinking in alcohol-free zones.

Later in the evening, the sting of Rihanna’s no-show was lessened by Party performances by Alexis Jordan and Wynter Gordon.

Jordan sang her hit Happiness in a Garden of Earthly Delights-themed show at the 2am slot in the Royal Hall of Industries, with fragrant garden aromas pumped into the hall at the conclusion of her performance. Gordon performed her recent number one hit Dirty Talk in a spectacular stage show.

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