Tens of thousands of Mardi Gras revelers returned to Oxford Street in Sydney on Saturday night. According to organizers, he’s one of the biggest parades ever.
Two years after COVID-19 relocated the event to the Sydney Cricket Ground, the streets and surrounding area were in a colorful party atmosphere, with people flocking early in the morning for the best viewing spots.
Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said, “This is one of the most inspiring atmospheres I’ve seen in a very long time.
“And of course it’s all about equality. It’s all about partying with a purpose.
“For the first time in history, a prime minister will be participating in the parade. This is letting the world know that we are included.”
The parade was the biggest event at the World Pride Festival and was enjoyed by millions of people around the world, according to the state’s tourism minister.
This year, more than 12,000 people took part in 208 floats representing the LGBT+ community from all walks of life.
Rainbow fireworks were also launched along the 2.4km route.
In a tradition since 1991, Dykes on Bikes kicked off the evening’s extravagance, followed by Boys on Bikes and the First Nations float featuring a snake made of parachute material meandering down Oxford Street.
A smoking ceremony was held early in the night to recognize the land of Gadigal in the Eora nation.
And in honor of how and why Mardi Gras got started, there were floats front and center that paid homage to the 78ers and the ongoing struggle for LGBT+ rights.
Lance Manby and Peter Clare were among those who protested in 1978. The two have been together for as long as he attended Mardi Gras, he’s been together for 46 years.
“I feel the awareness of the 78ers is growing. It used to come and go, but this year it’s been very fulfilling,” Lance said.
Peter added that he was “very touched” by people coming up to him and “hugging” him.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese marched in historic fashion alongside other members of the NSW Labor Party, including provincial opposition leader Chris Minnes.
“I’m sorry it’s my first time, but this is a celebration of modern Australia. We are a diverse and inclusive Australia, and that’s a good thing,” Albanese said.
“People want their governments to be inclusive and represent everyone they love, their identity, wherever they live.”
Representatives of different countries were strongly featured in the parade. Queer Irish, Chinese Pride, Scottish Bravehearts, and Brazilians all had floats.
Eddie Oba has attended six parades since moving to Australia nine years ago. For him, Mardi Gras is very personal.
“Because in my country of origin, Nigeria, a homosexual can go to jail for 14 years.
“It’s a seasonal celebration of how far we’ve come and how much progress we’ve made, and it’s a stark reminder that we still have a lot to do.”
Another big theme of the evening was the visibility of transgender rights groups, including youth groups, parents and mental health advocacy groups.
Read the many posters, “Protect transgender children.”
Like the marchers, the crowd was vibrant and energetic throughout the five-hour spectacle. Some spectators sat on the fence line for almost 12 hours to secure a spot.
Western Australians Peta and Mel arrived with folding stools and eskys full of goodies.
Others carried fans, umbrellas and used rainbow flags to protect themselves from the Sydney heat, which reached 26 degrees.
They had an uninterrupted view of the event, unlike those who later walked around to find crowds as deep as 30 people.
Charlotte and Hayley Fitzpatrick were one such couple.
With their forearms on the fence line, the high school sweethearts (who said they were one of the first same-sex couples to get married in the ACT) explained how important it was to be there.
“This is our first parade and we wanted it to be on Oxford Street,” Haley said.
“I’m taking the kids across the bridge to the march next weekend.”
As the parade drew to a close, several spontaneous dance circles exploded on the fence line and the rioters moved in search of their next activity.
For some it was a sleeping house.
For others, the night is just beginning.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-02-26/sydney-gay-mardi-gras-2023-thousands-celebrate-on-oxford-street/102023722 Tens of thousands return to Oxford Street for Sydney Mardi Gras in biggest parade yet