Since 1978 the parade has not only been one of the vital components of Mardi Gras but its history has helped shape the Australian gay and lesbian community.
Initially a protest demonstration, the parade has developed into an iconic event which attracts thousands of national and international onlookers.
Embracing this year’s theme, History of the World, New Mardi Gras is fine-tuning the 2010 parade to ensure it is high-energy from beginning to the end where it will segue into the Parade Carnival.
“If there’s one single thing that inspired this choice of theme it was the very low awareness we’d found among people we talked to about the origin of the pink triangle. A number of us had noticed that the connection to the concentration camps was unknown to many,” New Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik said.
“This inspired us to look at gay history and how it might be brought to life. However, it doesn’t stop there. We hope people take a very camp look at other aspects of history, their own or their organisation’s history or choose to chronicle a little sliver of history they feel passionate about — like the history of one of their idols.”
While it’s too early to say, New Mardi Gras expects that the number of parade entries will be in line with last year.
In recent times, there has been much debate over the festival spilt and the parade having become more commercial.
New Mardi Gras believes the parade is at the core of what it does.
“If we could only do one thing, the parade would be it. However, there are other activities we do to create a festival that supports the parade both financially and as a visitor attraction,” Rolik said.
“Commercial entries are a very small percentage of the total in the parade. Largely the parade is a reflection of our community and for those who find it too commercial the answer really is to get creative and create something inspiring.
“We think more members of our community will attend the parade than in previous years. A lot of people who spent the night getting ready for the party will, we hope, choose 2010 to rediscover this amazing event.”
For ’78er Penny Gulliver, the parade has been a stepping stone in achieving gay rights and, more importantly, visibility.
“I believe over time we have succeeded because it has become a huge event as opposed to a demonstration. One of the important things as a young gay person in the beginning was that I didn’t know who I was and where I could find other gay and lesbian people and the parade helped this,” she said.
“The parade has changed but we are all a product of our times. I think the parade is about being present and visible.
“There is a lot of criticism but why make it a misery when you can make it happy and fun? And that’s what I love about the parade.”
One of the highlights of this year’s parade will be the return of community group Asian Marching Boys and Friends. After taking a year off, the group is looking forward to its 2010 debut.
“Last year lots of people asked where we had gone,” chair Kha Phan said. “After lots of hard work and plenty of determination, we’re ready to make a comeback.”
info: The 2010 Mardi Gras Parade is on Saturday, February 27, between Oxford and Flinders Sts, Darlinghurst. For more information on the route visit www.mardigras.org.au