WITH festival season almost upon us, Melbourne’s LGBTI community is gearing up for the biggest event of the year: Midsumma Carnival.

Thousands are expected to descend on Alexandra Gardens for Carnival, which opens the 27th Midsumma festival every year with a day of entertainment and community pride.

In 2014 the event made a return to Alexandra Gardens after a number of years elsewhere, a move widely praised by the city’s LGBTI community.

As well as five hours of free entertainment on the main stage, every community organisation and interest group you can imagine will be represented at stalls and marquees throughout the gardens.

The sporting precinct is also making a triumphant return this year, where LGBTI sporting groups will encourage visitors to get involved and try a new sport for the first time.

Of course, the famous Midsumma Dog Show will see the community’s canine coterie compete for glory and prizes.

On the main stage, a variety of live performances will take place, including Melbourne singer James Varnish, who will perform his song Connect, the official theme song for Midsumma 2015.

Connect was chosen as the festival’s anthem because of the way it fit with its overarching theme “Making Connections”, which aims to help connect the LGBTI community through meeting new people and new friends.

In a first for Carnival, the Burnet Institute will be offering rapid HIV testing in conjunction with the Victorian AIDS Council’s rapid testing service Pronto.

Carnival also sees the Victorian AIDS Council launch this year’s Melbourne Gay Community Periodic Survey, in partnership with the Centre for Social Research in Health and The Kirby Institute.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) attending the Carnival will be able to complete a brief, anonymous written survey about their sexual practices — including partnering habits, STI testing and drug use —providing valuable data for health campaigns and education targeting MSM.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will also host a stall to help raise awareness of unlawful workplace discrimination.

Once Carnival finishes up around 5pm, an all-star line-up of DJs and musical acts will take over the main stage for T-Dance, Midsumma’s free sunset dance party.

Carnival kicks off at Alexandra Gardens at 11am. (See map below)

For more information about Carnival and the full Midsumma festival, click here.

Carnival map

Carnival map

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Main photo: T-Dance at Midsumma 2014 (Photo: Ari Neuebauer; Star Observer)

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