The pride parade has a strong community focus

Midsumma Pride March Roundup

By Beau
Beau is the founder of Apollo Social. He recently relocated to Melbourne with his husband and has begun a love affair with the city.
As the sun sets on pride weekend, I reflect on my first Pride March and how it compares to other pride parades.

St Kilda was awash in rainbow colours on the weekend as the annual Pride March made its way down Fitzroy street. I was amongst the action taking in this key event as part of my first Midsumma after arriving in the city last year.

As usual, the Pride March took place on the second Sunday of the festival. It kicked off around 11 AM with the bone-shaking reverberations of the dykes on bikes, who in other pride parades have brought a tear to my eye seeing these women unashamedly being themselves despite the challenges they would have undoubtedly faced by not conforming to gender norms. What a great note to kick off the parade and get the crowd worked up for what’s to come. 

Marching band Many parade entries consist of marching community groups

The parade is organised into a number of waves grouped by a common attribute or industry (eg. youth, sports, cultural, organisations etc). Compared to other pride parades, it has a strong community feel; nowhere near as commercial as Sydney’s Mardi Gras. The first clue to this is in the naming of the event - “Pride March” compared to the more ostentatious “Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras”. Expect more community groups and less shirtless dancing boys. There is plenty of colour and glitter to make for an interesting parade, and all participants are full of energy. However, after an hour, I felt like I had seen enough so I set off in search of a refreshing ale.

One thing the parade has going for it is the crowd is only a few people deep so it’s easy to get a good viewing spot. In fact it’s possible to see the parade from the restaurants and pubs lining the parade route. Many of the venues including the Prince Hotel, Bunny Bar and The Espy have food and drink packages designed for viewing the parade. I can’t help but think my interest in the parde would have lasted longer with a frosty cold one in my hand.

Catani Gardens partyThe parade finishes up in Catani Gardens

The After Party

The parade route ends in the palm-lined Catani Gardens decked out with a stage, food trucks and a bar area. I thought I was settling in for a balmy evening of gay anthems being pumped out from the DJ decks as the sun set over Port Philip Bay. But I was shocked to hear the MC wrapping up at 4PM and bidding us adieu until next year’s festival! Zoning can’t explain the early end time because just a week earlier Piknic Electronik was pumping out dance beats until 9:30 PM at the same location. I couldn’t figure out why they were wrapping up when it seemed like the party was just getting started. In Montreal, a city I often compare to Melbourne, pride takes over a huge city-block-sized park for a week with nightly entertainment and street parties going late into the evening. Midsumma’s 3-hour post-parade party pales in comparison.

I later found out that Poof Doof had a free event at the St Kilda Sports Club down the street. This event went until 9:30 and so likely would have scratched my pride afterparty itch. I still wonder why bother doubling up? It would make more sense to combine the two and get all revellers together in one place.

The Verdict

The parade appears to have stayed true to its community soul without selling out to commercial interests. It’s well organised and contains enough colour, glitter and dancing boys to make it worth seeing. It showcases the well-developed cultural fabric of the city.  Combine it with a food and drinks package at one of the businesses on the parade route to avoid standing parched in the hot sun. The after-party in Catani Gardens didn’t seem worth the effort, check out what other post-parade events are scheduled in future years.