Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is an annual gay pride parade and festival for the LGBT community in Sydney, Australia, and is the largest such event in the world. The parade features individual entrants in colourful costumes, gatherings of local and inter-state community group members, and elaborate floats representating a topical theme or political message.
The parade and dance party attract many international and domestic tourists. Mardi Gras is one of Australia's biggest tourist drawcards, providing a significant economic boost of around $30 to $90 million Australian dollars to Sydney each year. The celebrations emerged during the early 1980s after arrests were made during pro-gay rights protests that began in 1978. Despite its name, it is not held on Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) or indeed, on a Tuesday at all.
The parade, whilst featuring many in the gay community with a penchant for exotic costumes and dance music, has always retained a political edge, with often witty visual commentary on their political opponents featuring in the floats. As homosexuality became more and more accepted in the wider community, more gay representatives of community groups and organisations have taken part in the parade, including the police force. Each parade starts with about 200 "Dykes on Bykes" riding up Oxford Street. It is often accompanied by fireworks displays, which are launched from the rooftops of buildings along the parade route.
The post parade party is one the largest ongoing party events in the country. Mardi Gras Party attendances at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion / Royal Hall of Industries peaked in 1998 with 27,000 tickets sold. In the years since 17,000 to 20,000 tickets are consistently sold, an extraordinary explosion since the first Parade Ball held in 1980 at the Paddington Town Hall, a BYO event which attracted 700 guests.