3 Mar 2013

Thousands join Mardi Gras parade

2:37 pm on 3 March 2013

Fireworks, glittering transvestites and a sprinkling of popstars lit up Sydney's Mardi Gras but the loudest cheers were saved for the festival's founding cast.

Ten thousand performers took part in the gay community's night of nights on Saturday with celebrations focusing on the parade's 35-year history, AAP reports.

The lead float at this year's parade was dedicated to the 78ers, the original marchers including media personality Julie McCrossin and the "godfather of Mardi Gras" Ron Austin.

Thirty five years ago, the pair were part of a small group who took to the streets of Sydney to highlight discrimination against gay people.

On Saturday night, despite the rain and gusty winds, thousands of onlookers cheered as the performers danced, marched and cartwheeled down Oxford Street to commemorate the years of struggle for gay acceptance.

Gay members of Australia's defence force (ADF) marched in their uniforms for the first time. Squadron leader Vince Chong from the Royal Australian Air Force said it was exhilarating to be part of the event. "This is about us being proud of the uniform, and it allows us to show how proud we are of the ADF."

Politicians were also a part of the festivities with Sydney Mayor Clover Moore turning out with a team of supporters along with Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich.

The ALP and the Greens were also represented while the Liberal Party also had their spot in the parade, with their float led by the opposition leader Tony Abbott's gay sister Christine Foster.

Ms Forster said she hoped she could "one day" convince her brother to march in the parade despite the fact that he led the Coalition in a bloc "no" vote in two separate bills seeking to amend the marriage act to include same sex marriage in 2012.