I’VE always felt that when it comes to summer, Sydney saves the best for last. Christmas creeps forward seemingly a little earlier each year, drawing us into the orbit of loved ones with equal parts anxiety and affection, before the recap and restart of New Year’s Eve. Sydney Festival keeps spirits high throughout January, and Australia Day rewards us with a public holiday that feels downright extravagant so soon after the year-end break.

Come February, most Sydneysiders have fallen back into their routines and are marking off the days until Easter. But for Sydney’s gay and lesbian community, the shortest month of the year is a time for celebration, stimulation, rejuvenation and reflection. It’s a time to come together, to share what we have in common and take pride in what makes us unique. Mardi Gras feels like Christmas – minus the family conflict over who makes the better turkey stuffing, and with a whole lot more glitter.

Mardi Gras means different things to different people. For some, it’s an opportunity to immerse themselves in a cultural festival that showcases the cutting edge in queer art, drama, music, film and more. For others it’s a chance to engage in forums and debate about issues that are important to our community, such as the push for marriage equality. And, of course, several parties are held throughout the month, culminating in the famous all-nighter following the parade.

I remember watching my first parade in 1987 and at the after party George Michael performed and released his album Faith. Well before we’d even reached Oxford St we could hear the roar of the crowd and the sound of music ricocheting off the buildings that lined the parade route. There was an atmosphere of expectation and celebration that was electric – the air felt charged. Then suddenly it was upon us: sequins, feathers, disco lights, drag queens, dykes on bikes. The crowd was heaving, but everyone remained friendly. Spirits were high but the mood was convivial. I was hooked.

Since then I’ve made it a priority to be in Sydney during the month of February, even when we are harvesting in the Hunter at exactly the same time. As a businesswoman, I find Mardi Gras to be a fantastic opportunity to network with like-minded people from all over the world, sharing ideas, seeking advice – even cooking up the odd joint venture or collaboration. I feel fortunate to have ‘Mardi Gras friends’ around the world, with whom I keep in regular touch. Some have even returned for a second, third and fourth Mardi Gras. As anyone who’s spent the month of February in Sydney knows, it’s hard to stay away.

This year I’ve been approached to speak at Women Say Something: Dancing On The Ceiling, an evening celebration of the achievements of a diverse group of women, held at Sydney Town Hall the night before the parade and party. Among those invited to speak are pioneering speechwriter and Defence Force figure Lt Col Cate McGregor, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and country music star Beccy Cole. I am humbled to be counted alongside such inspiring women and hope to learn something from each of them. And if I can educate them a little on the virtues of a cool climate pinot gris with notes of pear, passionfruit and citrus, so much the better.

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