I’m not sure who made the goofy decision to try and cram 80,000 queer outdoorsy types into Camperdown Park for Fair Day, but let me just say, it was not a gay time.

Fair Day kicks off the Mardi Gras season and has always been my favourite part of it all. Usually hosted at Victoria Park, there’s ample room to roam around and take in the sights.

The Camperdown Park event felt like we were all herded into a cattle pen. At one point, my friend and I decided we should visit some stalls that were set up on the path that runs parallel to the cemetery. A slight dip in the path allows you to see the entire length of it. All we saw was a carpet of bobbing heads and it was all the encouragement we needed to turn right back around and leave.

There was no space to move around, and this somehow made the entire event feel that much more corporate. Why the fuck was Holden there? Why did they have a stall? They had a car parked out the front of their tent with some milquetoast statement about how they supported equality. I mean, there’s always a corporate spectre at these things, or has been for several years now, but at least the vast expanse of Victoria Park disperses it all, so it feels less like a concentrated attack on your wallet and more of an incidental.

The main stage had an interesting sound problem, in that unless you were directly in front of the stage or two metres away from the side of it, you couldn’t hear a damn thing.

The puppies were great, though. The puppies are always great. There was a stall with glittered shoes. There were a lot of happy, screaming kids running around with paint on their faces and everybody seemed to be in good spirits despite the squeeze.

In true Sydney fashion, however, security was overzealous and the rules about which gate to use to enter and exit seemed largely arbitrary and only worsened the congestion. I saw a security guard tackle a man to the ground because he dared take a cup of water out of the venue.

Fair Day felt less like a picnic this year and more like being slowly suctioned and squeezed through the large intestine of corporate Australia. If you were lucky you’d grab some free, poop-smeared swag as your face dragged against the clammy guts of queer consumer culture.

But hey, I’ve no moral high ground to stand on. I didn’t refuse their advances, and was instead seduced by a pair of free rainbow shoelaces. And a wristband. And condoms. Also a few stickers. I would’ve taken a T-shirt too.

It’s not always a bad thing, except when it is. I guess there’s a balance to be found, even when capital interest invades a self-sustaining culture. I don’t mind the free condoms, but I’m not really sure what Holden is doing in the fight for LGBTQI rights. If they could answer that, I’d be more forgiving of them parking on my fucking lawn.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone.

this week… it’s all about Mardi Gras

On Saturday March 4, head over to Oxford Street (or Flinders Street) in Darlinghurst to watch 10,000 glittery queers march in celebration of liberation and equality. Now in its 39th year, Mardi Gras means different things to different people – but it is undeniably an event for celebration with an ever-present political undercurrent. We’ve come a long way baby, but there’s more to go yet. The parade kicks off at 7pm.

Also on Saturday March 4, the Art Gallery of New South Wales celebrates Mardi Gras with Queer Art After Hours. Featuring performances from Blake Lawrence, Matt Format, Brendan Maclean, Cocoloco, James Welsby (Yummy) and The Huxleys, it’s all being held against the backdrop of the Andy Warhol exhibition. DJs include Gemma and Seymour Butz. Entry is free.

And on the same night, get down to The Red Rattler in Marrickville for Monsta Gras: Mother Tongue. It’s a slightly darker queer party for the Mardi Gras season, with performances from SJ Norman, Amrita Hepi, Slé and Justin Shoulder. The DJs are Sezzo Snot, Lorna Clarkson, Chunyin, Joseph Chetty, Queen G, Wahe, Yung Brujo and DJ Meta ETC. Presale tickets are available now for $20 + booking fee. A limited quantity of tickets will also be available on the door.

[Main photo:Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade 2016 by Katrina Clarke]

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