For the first time in 43 years, there will be no crowds on Oxford Street for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Instead about 41,000 people will flock to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) tonight for the biggest arts and culture event anywhere in the world right now.
“Not even the HIV pandemic has kept us down and we will not back down from any other challenge,” Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said.
COVID-19 has forced a major downsize for Mardi Gras this year and the event will be nothing like a “normal” year which sees about 200,000 people take to the streets of Sydney.
Here’s what you need to know about the COVID-safe celebrations.
When does the Mardi Gras parade begin?
The celebration kicks off from 6.00pm EDT but there are staggered arrival times for revellers to ensure social distancing.
Everyone will be temperature checked when they enter the SCG.
When the event ends (about 10.00pm) people will be divided into groups of 500 for a staggered departure from the stadium.
Face masks are recommended when entering, exiting or moving around the SCG but they are not mandatory.
Food and drink must be consumed in allocated seats and COVID-19 safety messages will be displayed on the SCG screens.
SCG COVID-19 marshals will be patrolling the stadium to ensure everyone remains seated.
Over 5,000 parade participants, split between 140 entries, will have 45 seconds to make it around the SCG and wow the crowd.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, each group can only include 40 people.
If you can’t attend the event, the Mardi Gras parade will be broadcast live on SBS from 7.30pm.
Can I celebrate Mardi Gras in a pub?
For the first time since 1980, there will not be an official parade afterparty.
Many pubs and bars around Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Oxford Street have sold out ticketed celebrations.
“Venues will be operating near capacity or at capacity,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Gelina Talbot said.
“There will be no lining up to get into venues.”
Police will be out in force monitoring venues and house parties, particularly around Moore Park, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills.
The two-square metre rule applies in all hospitality venues, however, patrons are allowed to stand while drinking in outdoor areas.
Patrons also aren’t allowed to dance and must be seated at all times when drinking indoors.
Can I have a Mardi Gras party at home?
Up to 50 people are now allowed to gather in a house at one time so many parties are expected.
Mardi Gras is encouraging everyone who does not have a ticket to an after-parade event to head home.
“You cannot and will not find a space to go afterwards, so please go home,” Mr Kruger said.
If a house party exceeds 50 guests, everyone could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $11,000.
No more than 50 people can gather in groups outdoors in places like parks or beaches.
As per the special public health order in place for Mardi Gras, police can order people to leave any public place between the SCG and Hyde Park if impromptu gatherings or overcrowding occur.
That order will start at 12:00pm today and end at 6:00am tomorrow.
How should I travel to the SCG?
Additional bus and light rail services will take people from Central Station to the SCG but Transport for NSW is urging people to hit the pavements.
“There’s going to be a lot of people heading up to the SCG,” Acting chief operations officer Mark Hutchings said.
“What we would ask is if you are coming up to Central on the trains, we’d like you to hoof it up the hill to the SCG, it’s going to make it a heap better for us.”
If you have to catch public transport, plan ahead and allow plenty of extra travel time.
Face masks are still compulsory on all forms of public transport and there will be a major police presence on buses, trains and light rail before and after the event.
Additional queuing measures, signage and staff will be in place around Central Station, Moore Park transport hubs and the SCG to manage crowds.
Transport for NSW is also encouraging attendees to drive.
Parking will be available nearby at the Entertainment Quarter, the grass car park on the northern end of Driver Avenue at Moore Park Road or Sydney Boys High School and Sydney Girls High School.
If you’re catching a rideshare or taxi the best drop off area is on the northern end of Driver Avenue, entry from Moore Park Road.