17 February 2023

Wagga Mardi Gras spreads the message at Sydney WorldPride 2023

| Chris Roe
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Holly Conroy

Mardi Gras is back for a third time in five years and Holly Conroy says it will be huge. Photo: Chris Roe.

Holly Conroy is hoping that this year’s Wagga Mardi Gras is the biggest party the city has ever seen.

“I’m expecting this year to be absolutely huge!” she says with a grin.

With the international Sydney WorldPride LGBTQI+ festival kicking off this weekend, Holly and the Wagga Mardi Gras team will be heading to the city to promote Wagga to the thousands of visitors descending on Sydney.

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“We’ll have a stall at Sydney WorldPride Fair Day and we’re taking up lots of posters and things like that,” she explains.

“We’ve had visitors and performers come from overseas and we’ve already got people coming from all over Australia who know that we’ve got a fixed date on the second weekend of March.

“You don’t get a lot of country towns doing this sort of thing and we find people want to support it.”

Mardi Gras

Wagga’s Mardi Gras attracts visitors from across the country. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga is one of a small but growing number of regional centres hosting pride events and Holly says communities are embracing the message and enjoying the party.

“It’s amazing to see more of these popping up in country towns and I think that people just want to support diversity and to make a change in the world,” she says.

“With the way the world is at the moment, it’s just too negative and I think that’s why people embrace these events so much because they just promote so much positivity.”

Mardi Gras

Holly is proud to fly the ‘progress flag’ in regional NSW. Photo: Chris Roe.

Holly’s own journey as a transgender woman and country truck driver has been widely documented and she was the focus of the SBS program Country Town Pride in 2019 ahead of the first Wagga Mardi Gras.

While the decision to remain in a regional town through her transition was a difficult one, Holly says she has been overwhelmed by the community support and opportunities to change minds and hearts.

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“I’ve always said visibility is key and just having one event or one positive movie doesn’t change people’s opinions, we need to keep being visible,” she says, adding that there has been a positive flow-on effect in the wake of the previous two Wagga events.

“For me in my 9-to-5, I’m a truck driver and I go into a lot of depots, and I’ve had your typical big burly truck drivers come up to me and say that this has changed or broadened their opinions, so it has opened people’s eyes.

Mardi Gras

Holly will once again lead the parade down Baylis Street. Photo: Supplied.

This year’s Wagga Mardi Gras is a four-day affair from Thursday 9 March to Sunday 12 March with drag queen shows, a roller disco, markets and of course the parade down Baylis Street on the Saturday followed by a family fun day.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing all the happy faces celebrating diversity and the fact that they can express themselves to be who they are,” Holly says.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing all those different expressions and we’re gonna see so many amazing costumes and floats and personalities.”

Mardi Gras

Wagga Mardi Gras is a family affair. Photo: Supplied.

Holly says Wagga Mardi Gras offers something for everyone.

“You’ve just got to look at the amount of different people there – grandparents with their grandkids and husbands and wives bringing their kids down, it’s becoming a real family affair and I think that’s really helping the acceptance as well,” she says.

You can find more information on the Wagga Mardi Gras here.

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