The small town of Hay in rural New South Wales is set to hold its first Mardi Gras party next month to mark the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The Rainbow on the Plains Festival will comprise three all-inclusive events: a colourful street parade on Saturday, March 3 from 1pm, the Hay Mardi Gras Party from 6pm that evening and a beachside Rainbow Recovery Brunch on Sunday.
Local mum Kerri Mijok is one of the organisers who created the event in a bid to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion in the small town – which has a population of only 2500 – and to support her 16-year-old transgender son George.
“So many people hide their true selves. There is no reason why they should,” she told the ABC.
“We want to show people that we don’t care who you are or what you are, but that you’re accepted here and you’re welcome.
“Speaking to other members of the LGBTQI community that have grown up here, they are so appreciative. They love that this is happening.”
Albury-based drag troupe Dragology will perform at the Party, and attendees will be able to watch a live stream of the Sydney Mardi Gras parade together on the Saturday night.
Organiser Krista Schade told the ABC plans for the event started small but had since grown to include dozens of people.
“Originally we were just going to get a group of friends, frock up, have a few cocktails, a fundraiser and watch the 40th anniversary Mardi Gras parade on TV,” she said.
“Whether they are straight, bi, trans, gay, we just want country kids to stop feeling so isolated. Our town has a pretty horrible history of suicide.
“If we can have one kid feel better about themselves after coming to a party where everyone was just concentrating on having a great time and being happy in their own skin then we’ve accomplished a huge thing.”
For more details about each event and for tickets to the party, visit the Hay Mardi Gras Facebook page.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527, online at QLife.org.au or from Lifeline on 13 11 14.