Hundreds of thousands of people have lined the streets of Sydney to cheer on Australia’s largest and most famous gay pride parade.
Nine thousand people have marched in the parade, greeted by a crowd that waited hours to be close to the sights and sounds of the festival.
Those organised enough to get a front-row spot waved rainbow flags, and 73-year-old Jim Davies, who went with his wife Glenda, scored a kiss from drag-queen Lovely Liz.
“That’s the benefit of turning up early,” Jim says.
The couple has a gay grandson and they say they are proud of his sexuality.
They cheered as the raucous parade rolled down Oxford Street from Wentworth Avenue, made a right at Taylor Square and finished at Anzac Parade.
This year’s march consisted of about 9,000 participants and 135 sparkling floats, belting out iconic gay tunes while teams of frocked-up dancers performed their routines in tow.
Many portrayed this year’s theme, History of the World, showcasing gay history and shining a pink light on some colourful historical figures and events.
Osama Bin Laden came out of hiding, while NSW Labor Party zombies also reared their ugly heads.
For the first time, a transsexual – US model and performer Amanda Lepore – led the parade.
A float of 150 dancing George Michaels was organised in an attempt to lure the the former Wham! singer along.
There was much speculation he would make a surprise appearance, after plugging the event at his Sydney concert on Friday night.
Husband-and-husband Marc Van Den Broek and Tim Dekkers channelled the British singer by wearing `Choose Life’ T-shirts.
They wedded nine years ago in their native Holland and say Australia needs to get with the times and recognise same-sex marriage.
“Mardi Gras is important for gay rights, to show who you are what you want to be where you want to live,” Mr Dekkers said.
Now in its 33rd year, the Mardi Gras parade started out as a protest march for gay rights in 1978.
It has grown into a world-famous event, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators and harnessing the support of the state government, the NSW police force and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
Such recognition shows how far the gay and lesbian community has come, says drag queen Glenda Waverly, who attends every year to “promote diversity and equality”.
“It’s great to have the police here because in 1978 everyone was arrested,” she said.
But Vivian Chen, who dressed as Bjork for the occasion, feels it is still tough for her.
“There is so much discrimination still happening…every day and it’s only once a year that no one can say anything,” she said.
As the parade came to an end, organisers said it was too early to estimate crowd numbers, but they believe it was in the hundreds of thousands, boosted by the great weather.
The glitz and glam rolled away from the CBD and people began to peacefully disperse into the night.
Many were disappointed they couldn’t penetrate the throng of onlookers.
Teenagers Chantal Tapp and Katherine Christie were glad they came for the spectacular, which ends with a Mardi Gras party next weekend and is expected to inject $29 million into the local economy.
“It’s important to show support,” Katherine said.
“We want them to know we don’t care they are gay.”