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Pride festivals in NSW

Broken Heel Festival 2017CREDIT: Destination NSW

Glamourous hosts Philmah Bocks and Art Simone roll through Main Street, Broken Hill during the Broken Heel Street Parade.

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Pride festivals
in NSW

Broken Heel Festival 2017 CREDIT: Destination NSW

Glamourous hosts Philmah Bocks and Art Simone roll through Main Street, Broken Hill during the Broken Heel Street Parade.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Hashtags #lovensw #newsouthwales

The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras draws visitors from around Australia and overseas, but it’s not the only Pride party that takes place in New South Wales each year. Across the state, there’s a vibrant calendar of annual LGBTQI events to choose from, from outback parades to epic urban fiestas. Here are some fabulous NSW festival options to plan a trip around. 

In Sydney  

Mardi Gras is one of many LGBTQI celebrations on Sydney’s social calendar. Each August, the city’s rainbow family gets dressed up for the Aurora Ball, a glamorous evening that raises money for local queer charities. Keep an eye on the Facebook page of the Aurora Group charity for details of the ball.  

A few weeks later in September, the Queer Screen Film Fest comes to life, brought to you by the same folk who organise the Mardi Gras Film Festival in February and March (the two events share the one online home). And every November, thousands of locals and visitors congregate in Parramatta in Western Sydney for the family-friendly Parramatta Pride Picnic, organised by NSW health organisation ACON. It’s a day full of music, drag shows, food events, sporting activities and more — see ACON’s Facebook page for updates on the event.  

North of Sydney 

In Newcastle, a two-hour drive north of Sydney, the Newcastle Pride festival is growing rapidly, featuring a parade, a picnic and a slew of special parties. It’s held over August and September each year to celebrate diversity in Newcastle, neighbouring Lake Macquarie and the wider Hunter region. 

Soon after, in October, venues in Umina Beach, Woy Woy and Ettalong Beach on the Central Coast, around an 80-minute drive north of Sydney, host Coastal Twist, an arts and culture festival with a subversive edge. Over four fun days you’ll see cabaret and drag acts, music events and dog parades, culminating in the Coastie Carnie Fair Day at Umina Beach. 

Northern NSW 

Head to the welcoming town of Lismore in the lush Northern Rivers region of northern NSW, about a 50-minute drive inland from Byron Bay, for one of several events held throughout the year by local organisation Tropical Fruits. Established in 1988, this not-for-profit group is renowned for its fun and eclectic parties — many LGBTQI folk from Sydney consider it a rite of passage to attend a Tropical Fruits party. The biggest Tropical Fruits celebration of the year is the New Year’s Festival, but the Easter Party and the Queen’s Birthday Party in June also draw big crowds. 

Newcastle Pride, Newcastle CREDIT: Blaket Aco

DJ Victoria Anthony at a Newcastle Pride party in Newcastle.

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Newcastle Pride, Newcastle CREDIT: Blaket Aco

DJ Victoria Anthony at a Newcastle Pride party in Newcastle.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Rainbow on the Plains Festival, Hay CREDIT: Margie McClelland

The inaugural Rainbow on the Plains Parade in Hay.

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Rainbow on the Plains Festival, Hay CREDIT: Margie McClelland

The inaugural Rainbow on the Plains Parade in Hay.

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Outback NSW 

Fans of the cult film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert shouldn’t miss the Broken Heel festival, which takes place each September in the movie’s spiritual hometown, Broken Hill in Outback NSW (a 3.25-hour flight from Sydney).  

This five-day gala features non-stop comedy, cabaret, live music and social activities across three event stages, including at the Palace Hotel, where major scenes of the film were shot, and the Silverton Hotel in the nearby town of Silverton. The festival attracts a world-class line-up of drag queens, drag kings, showgirls and other fierce performers, and culminates in a street parade called the Main Drag in Drag, in Broken Hill Town Square, which brings together the entire town to celebrate Priscilla’s cinematic legacy.

The Riverina region 

Traditionally known as NSW’s centre of wool production, the town of Hay in the Riverina region of southwest NSW (an eight-hour drive or a 90-minute flight from Sydney) has been attracting attention for Rainbow on the Plains. This Pride celebration takes place annually on the last weekend in March. What began in 2018 as a plan for members of the local LGBTQI community to gather and watch the 40th annual Sydney Mardi Gras parade on television soon evolved into a fully fledged independent three-day event. 

The major Riverina town of Wagga Wagga (around a five-hour drive from Sydney, or a 75-minute flight) usually hosts Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras in March. While the 2021 event has been cancelled, the Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras will continue to attract rainbow revellers and their friends from across the region. In addition to a colourful parade, there are social events across the weekend, and many local businesses get involved by decorating their shopfronts and running Mardi Gras-themed promotions and competitions. In the native language of the local Wiradjuri Aboriginal people, Wagga Wagga means the place of many dances and celebrations, so it’s little wonder the town has become an inclusive hotspot. 

Murrumbidgee River, Wagga Wagga CREDIT: Destination NSW

Go on an early morning row on the Murrumbidgee River.

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Murrumbidgee River, Wagga Wagga CREDIT: Destination NSW

Go on an early morning row on the Murrumbidgee River.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

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