Known to locals simply as Mardi Gras, the Sydney Mardi Gras carnival is an annual event held in the heart of New South Wales' capital city. Taking its cues from festivals in South America and elsewhere, the Mardi Gras celebration in Sydney is a spectacular two-week extravaganza that brings people from many walks of life together from February 17th to March 4th. Celebrating all that the local community has to offer, the yearly Mardi Gras festivity is for everyone - straight, gay or otherwise -, and it’s an opportunity for people to celebrate alongside their LBGTQI friends, neighbours and role-models. In fact, the Mardi Gras party Sydney has become famous for has drawn tourists to the city in droves. For a number of years now, it’s been the envy of many leading cities worldwide. Interested in visiting the Mardi Gras in Sydney? If so, then read on.
In 1978, a fairly informal night-time celebration of gay culture took place when around 500 attendees turned up. People soon got the Mardi Gras bug, and 3,000 people turned up the following year, when the inaugural parade was staged. By 1983, the festival was being held in the summer, and around fifty floats were on display at the parade, with tens of thousands of spectators joining in the fun. Nowadays, the festival includes a number of off-shoot events, but the parade remains the centrepiece.
This year’s fete marks the event's fortieth anniversary - a milestone worth celebrating to the full with fairs, workshops, parades, plays, film screenings, visual arts and more. To that end, thousands of people will be lining up on February 18th for the free Fair Day carnival in Victoria Park. It’s a medley of races, wax figures, sing-offs, 'Doggywood' competitions and selfies in all the colours of the rainbow. February 24th is Family Fun Day, so both the young of age and the young at heart will be flocking to the Luna Park Sydney venue. You’ll then have a blast, a splash or both at the Pool Party on February 26. If you can break away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney for a few hours, watch a play in good company at the Seymour Centre until March 2nd. If you can’t make it to the parade, the party or the afterparty (The Laneway), you’d do well to check the festival program, and snag some tickets to the hundreds of events, both free and paid, rolling out in the weeks to come.
The main Mardi Gras party Sydney will play host to in 2018 takes place from 10pm on March 3rd to 8am the following day, at Playbill Venues. This year, the Goddess of Pop, Cher, will be headlining the show, charming you with her contralto. Enough said. The roster also includes 15 DJs performing for the masses - already warmed up and geared for mayhem after the four-hour long parade that starts at 7pm. No fewer than 200 groups and floats from all over Australia will be on show, including Dykes on Bikes, drag queens and countless variations on the theme. If you missed out on the VIP ticket for the Diamond Club Parade Viewing at 6:30pm on Saturday, don’t despair. The Parade Sideshow on Flinders Street will be on at 7pm. Should tickets sell out before you can get your fingers on some for your group, no worries. There’s loads to see from the roadside, and plenty of performs willing to indulge you with a close-up shot or a selfie. But it wouldn’t hurt to show up really early if you want a good vantage point; you’ll literally be rubbing shoulders with hardcore Mardi Gras Sydney fans and revellers.
The Mardi Gras festivity draws to a close on March 4th with several low-key events. VIP tickets for the Diamond Club Parade Viewing at 11pm have sold out, but you may still be able to attend, whether you have to beg, borrow, or steal. Luckily, you can snag a Parade Sideshow ticket and head over to Flinders Street for the family-friendly after-party. The Laneway recovery party and street fiesta is on at 2pm on March 4th, and the procession starts from The Beresford & Flinders Hotel. You’ll find tasty food stalls, drag queen performances and impromptu picnics along the way, but save some energy until the very end – 1am on March 5th, to be more precise –, and let the party go with a bang.
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