New Mardi Gras is urging the community to pre-purchase tickets for next Friday’s season launch at the Sydney Opera House, with door sales not planned because of concerns about delayed entry.

Organisers are hoping around 5,000 people turn out for this year’s celebration, which will have an entry fee for the first time in its history.

New Mardi Gras chair Marcus Bourget told Sydney Star Observer entry to the fenced-off launch site would run to plan if patrons bought their $10 ticket early.

At this point, tickets will not be available on the night. Door sales would significantly delay the launch schedule, Bourget said.

He would not reveal how many launch tickets had been bought so far, saying only sales were good. There was no indication people were holding off on buying tickets until closer to the night.

Organisers have also moved to make launch more family-friendly, announcing children under five will gain free entry.

We’d like to see as many people there as possible, Bourget said.

The New Mardi Gras chair was tight-lipped about a rumoured special guest speaker. Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore and entertainers Sarah McLeod and Sista She are among the confirmed launch line-up.

Unlike last year, under-18s will be able to attend unaccompanied by an adult. Regular identification requirements will apply to bar sales at the non-BYO event.

It is expected community organisations will be able to fundraise at the Opera House next Friday.

We are in discussions with the Opera House about community fundraising on the night and we hope that there will be community fundraising, Bourget said.

The 2006 New Mardi Gras launch is on Friday 3 February from 6:30pm, with gates open at 5pm. Tickets are $10 and on sale now at The Froot Store in Newtown, Gold’s Gym in Surry Hills, the New Mardi Gras office in Petersham and Sax Fetish in Darlinghurst.

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