Inclusion, acceptance, love — welcome to Mardi Gras at Hay, population 2,000

Everyone in Hay knows I’m gay and I’ve got no problem with it but there are a lot of young people out there that are gay and aren’t sure about coming out.”I think what’s happened in Hay this weekend is the best thing to happen, not only for the town but for those young people.”

Nicolas Parkhill enjoys the day at the Rainbow Festival on the Plains at Hay. (ABC: Rosie King)
Mrs Mijok organised the event with two friends, Krista Schade and Kerry Aldred, and their message was simple.”Inclusion, acceptance and love,” Mrs Mijok said.”Having a transgender son, that message was so important to me.People travelled for hours”I want him to feel accepted just like everyone else and I wanted this to help show him he is normal and he’s going to have a fantastic life.”But it wasn’t just for George. (ABC: Rosie King)
Nicolas Parkhill, chief executive of sexual health organisation ACON, grew up in Hay and said the importance of visibility and inclusion for people in the LGBTQI community couldn’t be overstated. Photo:
Three colourful characters celebrate at the Rainbow on the Plains in Hay, New South Wales. Everyone has really gotten into the spirit and the outfits have been outstanding.”It’s an amazing town and an incredible initiative to get behind.”The Hay locals are going to have to get used to having their streets covered in rainbows once a year because preparations have already started for next year’s Rainbow on the Plains Festival.”It’s going to be even bigger and better,” Mrs Mijok promised. Photo:
Local police at Hay take part in the Rainbow on the Plains festival. Photo:
Kerrie and George Mijok at the Mardi Gras in Hay. The spirit of this Mardi Gras and any Mardi Gras is to celebrate and spread love so that’s what we’re here for.”An incredible initiativeMichael Goddard travelled from Sydney to take part in the festivities in Hay and said it was worth the long drive.”It was fabulous, to say the least,” Mr Goddard said. A small country town in south west New South Wales has given the Sydney Mardi Gras a run for its money this weekend — by hosting its own.Hay has a population of just over 2,000 people and is usually known for its celebrated shearers and farmers.But this weekend, it is celebrating its gay, lesbian and transgender community with the Rainbow on the Plains Festival, its inaugural Mardi Gras.”The idea was just to have a party and celebrate 40 years of the Sydney Mardi Gras and it’s just flown from there — we never expected it to get as big as it has,” organiser Kerri Mijok said. Everyone’s welcome here in our town.”For 16-year-old George Mijok, there’s no underestimating the significance of the event.”It just shows much support we have in Hay,” he said.”I really hope it encourages people to just be themselves as long as they’re happy.”People travelled for hours — some from more than 700km away — to watch more than 20 floats fill the town’s main street. (ABC: Rosie King)
Hundreds of people took to the sidelines to cheer and take photographs as the flamboyant parade passed them by.It’s a day Lyn Hunt is unlikely to forget.”It has been absolutely fantastic,” Ms Hunt said.Importance of inclusion”I’m really proud of the town and I never thought it’d happen, not in my lifetime anyway”I’ve been gay all my life. The event was all about getting together as a community and showing everyone that your gender, your sexuality, none of that matters. (Supplied: Allan Briggs)
“I think Hay has given Sydney a run for its money. (Supplied: Allan Briggs)
The Rainbow on the Plains Festival wasn’t embraced by the whole community in Hay, with some locals choosing to leave town for the weekend.Sarah Parsons, who travelled from Deniliquin to march in the parade, said that resistance didn’t detract from the event in any way.”Each to their own — that’s the spirit of this festival as well,” Ms Parsons said.”We’re not here to divide anyone. The town is certainly leading the way for other regional towns across Australia to stand up and say they love their kids — whether they’re gay, straight or whatever — and tell them they’re all welcome.”

The main street of Hay is taken over by the Rainbow on the Plains festival. “It’s absolutely critical for LGBTI people, particularly young people, living in rural and regional Australia to feel that they are safe, to feel that they’re embraced and that they’re included,” Mr Parkhill said.”It’s vital for their mental health, their physical health, their financial health and their social health.”It’s so brave what Hay has done today.
Hay 2711
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(ABC: Rosie King) ABC Riverina

By Rosie King


March 04, 2018 14:29:01

Josh Bell and Michael Goddard at Hay’s Mardi Gras festival.
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