Sydney 2012 Mardi Gras
Originally a commemoration and demonstration to mark New York’s Stonewall’s Riots of 1969, the Sydney Mardi Gras has grown to become one of the world’s largest festivals. The Sydney Mardi Gras was first inaugurated in 1979 when a protest march was held to commemorate the events of the previous year in which 53 protesters were arrested (Coorey, 2011). The 2-week long is now an annual festival and pride parade for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) people (CNW Group, 2012). The event brings together thousands of people from Australia and beyond and is an important part in the socio-economic interests of Sydney and New South Wales. The Event involves the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade and party, Harbor party, Mardi Gras Film Festival, the Bondi Beach Drag Races and a Fair Day in which more than 70,000 people converge at Victoria Park in Sydney (CNW Group, 2012). The 2012 Sydney Mardi Gras was held between February 18 and March 3 and was described by Destination New South Wales (NSW) as a phenomenal success.
The 2012 festival witnessed some changes and developments. The festival changed the name from Sydney Mardi Gras which had been adopted in 2011 to Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) (Coorey, 2011). In the same year, the members of the organization through a unanimous vote accepted to include the queer and intersex into the organization (CNW Group, 2012). The organization through events such as the Sydney Mardi Gras festival now champions for the collective rights of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Queer and the Intersex (LGBTQI).
Like in previous years, the 2012 SGLMG witnessed extreme pomp and color. Participants from Europe, UK, USA, South America and from the host country donned flamboyant costumes while others presented exquisite artworks, music and dances. Like in previous years, the event was attended by several international celebrities. Notable, in the 2012 SGLMG was Kyle Minogue; who saw more than 130 dancers pay homage to celebrate her 25 years in music (Collins, 2012). SGLMG CEO, Michael Rolik hailed Kyle’s visit as “a very special gift to Sydney.” According to Collins (2012), the Mardisgrasland sold out 15,000 tickets and offered partygoers a diverse range of both local and international artistes including UK-based dance legend Chinane, superstar RuPaul. Australian Sneaky Sound- Electro-popsters also graced the party.
The 2012 SGLMG featured a variety of entertainment. The Fair day saw 70,000 people congregate, visit community organizations and watch live music at Victoria Park from 10 am to 8 PM (Samander, 2012). The visitors also visited Sydney’s waterfront for the Harbor ’12 party as well as the Botanical Gardens and the Opera House for dances. The costs for these events averaged at $129. Moreover, the Mardi Gras Beach party and other gay-bars, hotels and restaurants within Sydney held special parties and events to kept the revelers entertained.
The 2012 Sydney Mardi Gras recorded improvements in several areas. The more than 9100 participants and 134 floats marched the parade route amidst thunderous cheers from thousands of people who lined the streets of Sydney. This figure was however lesser than in 2009 which recorded the highest number of participants at 9,500 (Star Online, 2012). Though the event has over the years been marked by fluctuations in participant attendance, the number of viewers has remained fairly constant. The 2006 Sydney Mardi Gras which featured 6000 participants and 120 floats, recorded 300,000 spectators, the same number of spectators as in 2011 (Coorey, 2012). In 2012, event organizers recorded that 15,000 participants attended the Sydney Mardi Gras party.
In previous years, the Sydney Mardi Gras has reached more than 70 million people through the media including people from key tourism markets for Australia (Australian explorer 2007). During the 2012 SLGMG, Destination NSW described the event as an excellent platform to showcase Sydney and New South Wales to the rest of Australia and the world. More than 20,000 people attended the 2012 SLGMG event from overseas injecting about $30 million into the economy of NSW (Star online, 2012). Following the success of the 2012 festival, the SGLMG now ranks as the second largest event in NSW in terms of economic impact.
Each year the SGLMG selects a chief of parade or a grand marshall to represent the spirit and values of Mardi Gras. This year’s representative was Shelly Argent who is the national spokes person for the Friends and Parents of Lesbians and Gays. In 2011, the organization chose 8 high-profile heroes of gay rights to lead the parade. These included Lily Tomlin- a gay comedian and actress, Don Baxter- executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDs Organizations, Sue Willis from the Campaign Against Moral Prosecution (CAMP) among others.
In spite of the immense success of the 2012 Sydney Mardi Gras, the Sydney Mardi Gras has had some low moments. These can be attributed to controversies from religious groups and people from certain political affiliations opposed to the lifestyles of the LGBTQI. Interestingly, Fred Nile- a member of the NSW legislative council and the Uniting Church in Australia prays that rain during the Mardi Gras events. Moreover, the organization has been hit by financial crisis as it happened in 2000 when the organization collapsed and in 2002 when the organization recorded a loss of Aus$400,000. The 2012 SGLMG can be summed up as a success that sets the bar high for the 35th event to be held in February/March 2012.
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Star Online (Australia) 2012. Mardi Gras awash with love. Retrieved 8 March 2012.