15 February 2022

Wagga welcomes all ahead of second Mardi Gras Festival

| Max O'Driscoll
Start the conversation
The bright and colourful crowd at Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras

Wagga Wagga’s second Mardi Gras Festival will run from 11-12 March. Photo: James Houghton (Embarketing Web and Graphic Design).

It’s only the second Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras Festival next month, but organiser Holly Conroy believes the event has already had an immense impact on the city’s acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community.

“Growing up here and when I was in my teens, there is no way known that I would’ve let anyone know that I was transgender or even considered coming out,” Ms Conroy said.

“I’ve seen a lot of people growing up in this area get picked on, physically and verbally assaulted. I’ve seen some pretty ordinary things done to people who were just being themselves.

“Especially since 2019, but even in the six years that I’ve been transitioning, I’ve noticed that Wagga has changed heaps. I have an excellent rapport with people around town and I don’t get picked on in the street. I work full time and play in two women’s sports teams.”

READ ALSO Decking out the Wagga Boat Club for events over Lake Albert

Running from Friday 11 March to Saturday 12 March, organisers promise “the biggest party Wagga’s ever seen”.

The drag show launch event will kick things off with five of the Gold Coast’s top queens at Que Bar on Friday. Doors will open at 6:30 pm, with the show starting at 7 pm, followed by a deck party. Tickets for the drag show are on sale now.

From 5 pm on Saturday 12 March, “A Parade of All Things Rainbow” will proceed down Baylis Street. Crowds will form from top to bottom down Baylis Street to catch the floats making their way down Wagga’s main strip.

An after-party will follow the parade at Victory Memorial Gardens with DJs, a full bar, food trucks and food stalls.

While there’s technically only been one event so far (2019), it’s the fourth time organising for Ms Conroy with all the interruptions of recent years.

To stay connected with their supporters following the inaugural event, she’s stayed active with their social media pages year-round. Engagement remains high nearly three years later.

READ ALSO The NRL is more than a game in country NSW

“It’s amazing. The event kind of grew legs of its own and just took off,” Ms Conroy said.

“It’s not that common for a regional area, but it’s been hugely successful here.

“We get people from all over the place. I have people coming from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. I had a lady just confirm with me that it’s definitely going ahead because she was making the trip from South Australia.”

Another way they’ve stayed relevant is through their “Safe Space Business Directory”. By displaying a Directory sticker in their window, businesses can let LGBTQI+ people know that they’re welcome in their store. It’s an initiative that Ms Conroy wishes was around when she started her transition.

“We’ve had a lot of businesses sign up to Safe Space and we’ve got a few more that need to be added to the website on our Safe Space directory,” she said.

“It’s basically just to let people from the LGBTQI+ community, especially from trans and gender-diverse backgrounds, know that a particular business is going to be welcoming to them, and it goes a long way in taking their anxiety levels down going into a shop or even accessing services.”

READ ALSO Heroes of Wagga Wagga crowned in Australia Day eve awards ceremony

As well as forming an online community, the event has been well received by everybody from Wagga Wagga City Council to shop owners.

“It puts bodies in their shops, that’s the whole reason the council gets behind it,” Ms Conroy said.

“The more people that come down and that are in the street, the more money that gets flooded into our local economy.

“They’re absolutely thrilled with what it’s done and how it has changed Wagga.”

As for what is still required at the event, there is room for a few more food vendors and more volunteers are always welcome.

To register your interest in either or to purchase tickets to the drag show launch event, head to the Wagga Mardi Gras website.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.