THE largest ever pride celebration for far north Queensland’s LGBTI community wrapped up last Sunday following an 11-day long festival in Cairns.

Previously known as the Cairns Tropical Pride Festival, the annual celebration continues to grow, with this being the first year since an official name change to Cairns Tropical Mardi Gras.

[showads ad=MREC]Events ranging from boat cruises to the popular Splash! pool party, art exhibitions to Fair Day – with its iconic dog show – saw Cairns light up with colour and glitter.

Visitors from across Queensland and interstate joined the festival which had changed its name and moved to a later date this year in order to attract more attention and partygoers.

“Many people thought the festival was a new festival to Cairns,” Tropical Mardi Gras spokesperson Andrew Wheatland said.

“Our team have worked very hard to make sure that the best parts of the previous ‘Cairns Tropical Pride’ festival were kept and built on.

“The new name and new festival dates have allowed the festival to grow, and have a greater presence in Cairns. There is certainly wider knowledge of the festival within the local area, and we are hoping this will cement our place in the Cairns festival calendar.”

Wheatland said he was “thrilled” with the amount of community engagement at this year’s festival.

“Everywhere I’ve looked during the festival, I have seen old people, young people, mums and dads, travellers, locals and people from all walks of life mixing together and enjoying themselves,” he said.

“We want people to be brought closer together in our community because it’s moments like this that really strengthen us and breath life into the LGBT community in the far north.”

At the Fair Day event, awards were handed out to outstanding community members who had either volunteered their time, effort and who had worked towards the betterment of the Cairns LGBTI community.

Wheatland was himself a recipient of an award for making outstanding contributions, along with Bill Chappelle and Nick Connor who were recognised for their lifetime achievements.

“I am completely humbled to have been awarded with a community award on fair day. Recognition of the efforts spent working in and for our community is really the icing on the cake for me,” Wheatland said.

“The lifetime contribution awards were given to two amazing members of our community who have worked tirelessly over a very long period of time to shape our community into what it is today.

“I congratulate Bill Chappelle and Nick Connor on their lifetime achievement awards, and look forward to working with them on community projects very soon.”

While this year marks many firsts for Brisbane Pride Festival in terms of political involvement and support, Tropical Mardi Gras was also the beneficiary of local government support, as well as some state government agencies.

“Without their support, I’m sure the festival could not have been as successful as it has been,” Wheatland said.

A highlight for Wheatland came when a member of the community said that due to the festival, they had never felt so much personal inclusion in the city.

“They had never felt so welcomed in Cairns, even after living here for a number of years.” he said.

“It’s stories like these that make me feel that Tropical Mardi Gras was a complete success for our community.”

As for what’s in store for next year’s Tropical Mardi Gras, Wheatland wouldn’t give anything away.

“We do have lots of ideas, however they are all top secret at the moment. I can tell you that next year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever,” he said.

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