It all started in 1993, after tensions with police over the criminalisation of marijuana resulted in another sour protest. Locals then decided to make a peaceful and constructive march through town, which was a surprisingly popular move that led to the inception of the Nimbin MardiGrass.
Nineteen years later and the event has grown into a full-blown celebration involving Ganja Faeries, stilt walkers, enormous joints and the Hemp Olympix. The latter involves the “Growers Iron Person”, the “Orchy Bottle Bong Throw and Yell”, “Joint Rolling”, “Spot the Undercover”, and the “Tug of War” performed with hemp.
I’d heard about this brazen festival, held in the lush counter-culture country of Nimbin, NSW, and I was keen to check it out. When I did get there, I arrived mid-parade to see the local indigenous lighting fires, Ganja Faeries waving their leaves about, and huge joints being passed through the procession.
This year’s Nimbin MardiGrass saw a solid but mixed turnout – tourists, locals, farmers and policeman, typical of the eclectic scene of the Northern Rivers, all who seemed to have a smile on their face. The police were taking it all in their stride, it seemed years of green protesting had led to its unofficial acceptance in the region.
A friend and I jostled past the many characters in costumes, weaved around the Ganja Faeries and stilt walkers, and made our way into the pub. Here we met a local named Mick, who’d lived in Nimbin most of his life. We stood on the crowded terrace, talking to Mick about the town’s glory days and the history of the Nimbin Mardigrass.
The pub still had its Victorian verandah, the bushland behind it was still a little rough, and Nimbin’s foliage-covered mountains loomed over town as the sun began to set. The celebrations continued until early next morning.
I’ll be back next year, for sure.