On Saturday night an estimated 300,000 spectators filled the streets to watch over 12,000 participants take part in the world’s biggest celebration of the LGBTQI community, the 40th annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

Four decades after one night of celebration became a political protest, the Mardi Gras spirit continues. The 2018 Parade, themed ‘40 YEARS OF EVOLUTION’, involved thousands of LGBTQI people and their champions from all across the globe uniting in creative self-expression and a celebration of diversity and equality.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras CEO Terese Casu revealed the sheer enormity of the event:

Reflecting on the Parade, Ms Casu said “The participation of every single person in this year’s special anniversary Parade helped produce a dazzling display of self-expression, reflection and celebration. In its fourth decade, this was our most iconic Parade yet and one that will go down in history.

“In total there was a record 200 groups represented in the 2018 Mardi Gras Parade, sharing a stunning array of creative concepts from all walks of LGBTQI life. 

“Beyond the glitter, flamboyance and satire, there were so many floats reminding us of the serious issues. Acceptance, inclusivity, diversity, respect.

“Among this year’s many floats were many paying tribute to the original Mardi Gras marchers, our 78ers, and our 40 year anniversary.  Indeed over 200 78ers from all over Australia made their way to Sydney to lead the Parade train with the First Nations float.

“Marchers from all over Australia were out in force: representing the beaches around Australia with the Surf Life Savers with Pride float, showing the world the Northern Territory’s unique LGBTQI community, and celebrating the LGBTQI activist groups of Tasmania. From a global perspective Sydney’s Indonesian community group Selamat Datang GLBTIQ brought to light the struggle for equality that people in other parts of the world face,” said Casu.

As the clean-up began on Sydney’s streets, many of the revellers continued to celebrate Mardi Gras at the Party, which took over several venues in Moore Park until 8am.

This year’s Party, Australia’s biggest LGBTQI Party, was headlined by pop superstar and LGBTQI icon Cher and also included performances by Starley and Seann Miley Moore, and sets by international DJs The Black Madonna, Hannah Holland, Kiddy Smile and Shaun J. Wright.

Guests were also treated to sets by local DJ talent Alex Taylor, Annabelle Gaspar, Ben Drayton, Beth Yen, DJ Dan Slater, DJ Dan Murphy, Dom de Sousa, DJ Du Jour, DJ Gemma, GI Jode, James Smithers, Kate Doherty, DJ Kate Monroe, DJ Kitty Glitter, SEZZO SNOT, SIMONA, Stephen Allkins, DJ Sveta, Victoria Anthony, and YO! MAFIA.

The midnight community show featured 40 of Australia’s legendary Drag Queens and Trans Showgirls, along with Mardi Gras legend Bob Downe and 25 dancers from the local community. There were performances across the night fromThe Huxleys, The Evolutionary Dinner Party, Feralicious, Sheba Williams, and Frankie Says. Guests also showcased their skills and belted out some classic LGBTIQ tunes at the Karaoke Bar.

Mardi Gras is supported by its Principal Partner ANZ. The 2018 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade was proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

Watch Joel Creasey, Magda Szubanski, Urzila Carlson and Patrick Abboud presenting the 40th Annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras broadcast here on SBS OnDemand.