Sydney celebrates biggest-ever Mardi Gras

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More than 300,000 people lined the streets of the Australian city of Sydney to watch a mile long Mardi Gras parade on Saturday night.

The colourful annual event is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

10,000 marchers in a variety of dazzling costumes, and more than 150 floats including a gay ‘pope-mobile,’ took part.

The parade was led by the ’78er’s’, who staged a 1,500 strong protest march for gay rights in 1978.

Originally authorised by police the protest, which commemorated the Stonewall Riots, was broken up by officers and many people were arrested.

The Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those up in court, which effectively outed large sections of the city’s gay population.

Diane Minnis, one of the original marchers, told the Brisbane Times:

“We’re very glad that it did because it makes being gay, lesbian, transsexual, etcetera, very visible and that’s what we still need.”

Also marching were 80 members of the Australian Defence Forces, who were taking part in the event for the first time.

The parade was followed by the sold out ‘Mardi Gras Party.’

Despite light rain, spirits were high as 18,500 partygoers were treated to performances from Grease star Olivia Newton-John and Cyndi Lauper, whose rendition of her 80s hit, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was enthusiastically received.

Despite more than twenty arrests for drunken behaviour the parade was peaceful and deemed a great success, with the majority of incidents occurring in the Hyde Park area well after the parade had finished.

“There were a couple of fights, a robbery and we’ve had instances of underage drinking,” said Catherine Burns, Assistant Commissioner.

Organisers revealed that this year’s Mardi Gras was the largest staged yet.

“Mardi Gras has had it’s fair share of ups and downs so to achieve the 30th anniversary is a huge milestone for us,” said event organiser Marcus Bourget.

“We raise $45 million (£21.1m) for the New South Wales economy each year, we’re a fully self-funding festival, but the state has not given us a cent.”

Plans are already underway for Mardi Gras 2009.