The Gunja Dancers make their way up Nimbin’s main street in the MardiGrass parade.
The Gunja Dancers make their way up Nimbin’s main street in the MardiGrass parade. Doug Eaton

Festival high on enthusiasm

WHILE the number of festival-goers at this year's MardiGrass was down, trade and goodwill was up.

Organisers were unwilling to speculate about how many attended the 20th anniversary drug law reform festival which normally sees as many as 10,000 descend on Nimbin.

Helen Wise of Nimbin Pizza and Trattoria attributed increased trade at her business to the fact there was no doof party this year.

The doof party has traditionally been held at secret locations without a development application until last year's organisers received large fines.

The pizza shop was open more hours than last year because visitors seemed to stay within the village precinct for longer.

"We have been really busy. It gets busier every year," she said.

Justin Smith, owner of fish and chips shop The Stoned Fish, said he also had seen more trade this year than last year.

Nimbin Hemp Embassy secretary James Moylan said people kept away because they were put off by police operations on roads leading to the town.

"Our whole town, a town of 600... has been trying to hold a community event for years and been blockaded at the beginning and end of town by the police to deliberately stop people from coming to express their views," he said.

"They only have to do it four or five times a year and the effect is there. People say, 'I'm not going to go'."

However, any tensions between police and MardiGrass organisers were not evident at the weekend and Mr Moylan conceded their relationship with the police had been "spark- ling".

"All the way through, we've had close liaison meetings with police, right up to the local area commander, and they've been brilliant," he said.

"It demonstrates when the police actively engage with the MardiGrass organising body, it will go out of its way to assist police."

Yesterday, police and MardiGrass organisers competed against each other in the "Tug of Peace" with police winning the event.

"Last year we lost because the organisers had a tractor, but this year we got one back," Inspector Nicole Bruce said.

Although Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone claimed they cheated, he tried to present police with the Cannabis Cup for their win, but no-one was willing to claim the prize.