In its first year at the scenic new location at Birrurang Marr, a perfect summer day on Sunday brought out the biggest Midsumma Carnival crowd in the festival’s 23 year history to Victoria’s biggest gay celebration – including a bevy of celebrities.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu was scheduled to officially open the event but was unable to attend at the last minute due to developments with floods in Victoria. In his place was Minister for Mental Health and Community Services, Mary Wooldridge, who re-iterated the festival’s special place in the Melbourne events calendar, as well as Baillieu’s support of the festival in ensuring its future growth and success.
Joining Wooldridge for official opening duties were member for Prahran, Clem Newton Brown and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Had Baillieu opened the Midsumma Carnival, he would have made history as the first Victorian Premiere to open a Midsumma event.
Wooldridge apologised on behalf of the Victorian Premiere, that he could not be present at the opening event, but said that he would be attending other Midsumma events.
An estimated 100,000-strong crowd flocked to Birrurang Marr in the heart of the city, along the scenic banks of the Yarra river for the opening event of the 2011 Midsumma Festival. It was nearly three times the usual carnival attendance, and included some big name celebrities.
Television personalities abounded from Neighbours to Prisoners. Radio personality Tracy Bartram joined Neighbours’ Dr Carl ( Alan Fletcher ) and Harold Bishop ( Ian Smith ). Acting icons Noni Hazlehurst and Colleen Hewett (Prisoner) were also present, all posing for pictures or signing autographs to raise money for charity.
More recent ‘so hot right now’ personalities were also in attendance, including Ruby Rose (MTV, 7PM Project), Em Rusciano (7PM Project), Hayley Teal (X-Factor) and openly Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitchem, all of whom appeared to be having the time of their lives in the perfect weather and ambient queer crowd. The trio partied together, and at one point had a ‘running man’ contest on the dancefloor.
Awesome queer entertainment flowed throughout the day over two stages with performances from drag queens and kings, highlights of the festival and special performances from the likes of the cast of Xanadu and Circus Oz. Em Rusciano and Hayley Teal blew the crowd away with their own performances during the day. Iconic Midsumma event, Dulcie’s Dog Show was as ever a crowd favourite.
“I helped judge Dulcie’s Dog Show… it was great to be asked, and definitely one of the most fun things I’ve done. Such a great day,” Ruby Rose told Same Same later that day.
The outdoor festival party, T-Dance kicked off at 5pm at a glorious middle terrace, taking celebrations into the late hours of the night. It was the first year that the event had totally sold out – another Midsumma record.
As the sun slowly set, a gorgeous cool change blew to soothe slightly sunburnt crowd as they danced the night away. X Factor’s Hayley Teal kicked off the awesome party performances around 7pm. International headlining DJ Bimbo Jones took to the decks for a wicked set. At 9:55pm, singer Zoe Badwi took the stage for the final two songs of the night. The dancefloor filled to capacity, hands went into the air, and party goers sang along as Badwi performed her two huge hits Release Me and Freefallin (the official song of Midsumma).
The day wasn’t entirely incident free. As people left Birrurang Marr after T-Dance, they were treated to a male streaker who ran, skipped and jumped completely naked around the lower terrace much to the cheering of the crowd.
On a more unfortunate note, two assaults were reported. A drunken argument between a man and a woman at T-Dance resulted in a violent struggle with security and his ejection from the party. Later as people were leaving, police were called to aid a man (who did not want to be named) who had a bollard thrown at him in a random attack, knocking him to the ground and cutting his head. Witnesses and security apprehended the assailant, another gay man believed to be under the influence and who was unknown to the victim, and an official report has been made to police.
Carnival officially opened the 2011 Midsumma program of over 150 diverse events over 3 weeks. Check our What’s On guide for highlight festival events here, or for full program details, visit the Midsumma website here.