The 1,200 or so volunteer parade officials on the Mardi Gras parade route work hard to keep the masses in line. Smiling, laughing, joking, handing out lollies, making new friends and doing Mexican waves -“ it’s a tough job if you can get it. But amidst all the hilarity, as a parade official, you’re also there to guarantee the safety of hundreds of thousands of spectators.
We made a commitment back in 2000 that by 2002 every single person on the parade route would go through a training session, says Mark Barraket, parade director. It’s no easy feat training so many people but the returns on that are worth it because it gives people the confidence to get on the streets.
Moreover, there’s support wherever you need it. Police, ambulance, fire engines -“ you name it. What the crowd experiences on the night is a well oiled machine which comes from years of trial and error. Back before the Olympics, we even had international committees looking at how we managed crowd control because we had such a good reputation for doing it well, Barraket continues. It’s the biggest parade in the southern hemisphere, so we need to be prepared for anything.
There are all sorts of parade official duties that still need to be filled. Oxford Street is split into a number of areas ranging from the start (where the floats assemble) to the finale. There are also registration, roving, float, media and awnings officials -“ all of whom form an integral part of the smooth running of the parade.
Being a parade official is not without inducements -“ apart from the great view on street level, you’re entitled to a $50 party ticket.
You might need to be there at 4pm in the afternoon, which may seem early, but the crowd can be there from dawn sometimes, laughs Barraket. From that time on, you’re making friends and preparing the crowd for the big event. Then there’s the Dykes On Bikes, fireworks, pre-parade entertainment -¦ and the officials, while doing their job, get the best view in the house.
Being a parade official on the night does take commitment -“ attending training and briefing day is required -“ but the level of information and experiences articulated in the training and briefings are based on 24 years of putting together this fabulous worldwide parade, says volunteer coordinator Shane Jeffery. So don’t be scared -“ the skills and experience you get in these sessions and on the parade route will help you in outside life as well.
Kathy Pavlich, parade manager, is coming up to her 14th Mardi Gras and says that without it, she wouldn’t be where she is today. Volunteering in this organisation has certainly opened doors for me -“ from coming on board expecting to be on a float, I went from being a section leader, to being on the board and now, I’ve been parade manager for four years, she reminisces. All this wouldn’t have happened without starting out as a volunteer.
Parade officials are as much a part of the parade as the floats -“ and the crowd -“ themselves, Jeffery concludes. Without them, we simply couldn’t do it.
If you would like to volunteer, please contact Shane, volunteer coordinator, on 9549 2106 or email [email protected] com.au. For your time and hard work, you can purchase one Mardi Gras party ticket for the price of $50. And don’t forget the free tee-shirt!