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Big Gay Out 2007: Live reports from NZ's biggest glbt event

Sun 11 Feb 2007 In: Events

PM Helen Clark helps Chris Carter and Peter Kaiser cut their Civil Union cake 11.15AM: Marquees, food stalls and shade pergolas have sprung up across Auckland's Coyle Park as New Zealand's biggest celebration of glbt culture, the Big Gay Out family picnic and entertainment day, prepares to kick off at midday. The parked cars of early arrivals are already lining the blocks of Pt Chevalier Road nearest Coyle Park which commands sweeping harbour views from the tip of Pt Chevalier. Food and handcraft stalls, a childrens' entertainment area and exhibition stands from gay and lesbian groups plus sponsors and a police recruitment presence have created a colourful atmosphere and the main entertainment stage is undergoing last minute sound checks. The NZ AIDS Foundation, which organises the event for the Hero Festival, has a strong presence, as does the Quilt Project remembering gay men lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The gay classic car club, gay business groups and other glbt community organisations are also on display, though the first of many outrageous and/or glamorous drag queens who are also an essential feature of the BGO have yet to start their promenading. The official weather forecast for today is still for fine weather with easterly breezes and high cloud is providing the occasional skiff of cooling light rain, but not enough to dampen the spirits of the hundreds of picnic-goers already staking out their preferred spots with hampers, groundsheets and plenty of sunscreen. "We're glad it's not as hot as yesterday," says BGO lead organiser Larry Jenkins, "and the odd shower won't stop us now." The first formal event will be the arrival of Mayor Dick Hubbard in just over an hour at 12.45pm for the opening of the Big Gay Out. Within an hour of that, newly united government minister Chris Carter and his partner Peter Kaiser will cut the cake from their Civil Union ceremony, held yesterday, and the Prime Minister is amongst senior politicians who will also visit the site throughout this afternoon. 12.45PM: As the clouds part and the temperature soars well above the forcasted 18 degrees over three thousand picnickers have already streamed into Auckland's Big Gay Out. Gays and lesbians of a wide variety of ages and from an array of ethnic and cultural backgrounds are strolling Coyle Park, taking in the sights or spreading out their picnic blankets. Food stalls, ranging from traditional barbecues and hotdogs to up-market cuisine and vegetarian fare are beginning to do a roaring trade. Children are already sliding down the inflatable Air New Zealand airplane-shaped slide, oblivious to its distinctly phallic profile when viewed from the main entertainment area. With the arrival of the sun the park is studded with an increasing number of buff bodies, mostly male but some female as well, and the first of the drag queens has begun strolling the grounds which are just firm enough to allow for stiletto heels. Under the pine trees families are tucking into picnic lunches, a number of gay and lesbian groups having brought feasts fit for a king, or queen. Police report the crowd is well behaved and the almost traditional anti-gay fundamentalist protesters have yet to put in an appearance. Leaflet distributors are handing out information on a wide range of services and products for gays and lesbians, and buskers and balloon animal vendors are adding to the noise and colour. 1.45PM: Auckland's Big Gay Out has been officially opened with thousands of picnickers cheering an impromptu appearance by newly united couple Chris Carter MP and his partner, and a well received speech by Auckland mayor Dick Hubbard. Speaking from the main entertainment stage which is visible from most of the increasingly crowded park, Hubbard confessed that when he became mayor two years ago he knew very few gay and lesbian people, but said he has since met many, many more in council and at events such as the Big Gay Out. He said he "admires and respects" Auckland's gays and lesbians and says his time in the mayoralty has opened his eyes to the wide diversity of people who make up his city. Although most people at the BGO are Aucklanders a crowd of Hamiltonians, whose trip was coordinated by that city's new Venom bar, have arrived to boost the numbers of people lugging chilly bins and picnic gear down Point Chevalier Road into the park. Parking space in the side streets is already at a premium and enterprising local children are offering paid parking spaces on the front lawns of their homes. Amongst the many colourful stalls Auckland's Rainbow Youth group is offering a magnificent prize in a $2 raffle. The winner will receive two tickets to next weekend's Hero Party, 2 tickets to the already sold out La Clique show at the Auckland Arts Festival, and a $100 tab from Ponsonby Road bar and cafe SPQR. 2.45PM: As thousands of gays and lesbians and their families settle into Auckland's Coyle Park for the Big Gay Out, stalls featuring services and activities offered by glbt community groups are attracting plenty of interest. Under a partly cloudy sky, with temperatures in the mid 20s in the sunny, sheltered tree-lined park, organisations as diverse as the Womens' Bookshop, Tamaki Makarau Lesbian Newsletter, Eroxxx adult lifestyle stores and the Fifth Season Gardening Club all have a presence. Family Planning, under a huge "SEX" banner is putting people into draw for a mystery break holiday or an iPod. Gayline/Lesbianline is explaining their services and the NZ AIDS Foundation's Gay Men's Health Unit is explaining the results of their latest groundbreaking research (soon to be detailed on The Takataapui TV programme is recording snippets for its soon to start new series on Maori TV, and the Metropolitan Community Church has a number of leaflet distributors dressed in white with large angel-like wings. A company specialising in large shoe sizes, suitable for drag queens, is displaying its wares, and the Community Alcohol and Drug service is handing out lollipops with small information packs. Non-gay groups also have a presence. The SPCA is introducing picnickers to "big, beautiful dogs', and George FM has a dance stage in full swing. The Labour Party has a stand and their boss, Prime Minister Helen Clark, is scheduled to visit the BGO shortly, at 3.30pm, when newly-united MP Chris Carter and his partner will cut their Civil Union cake in a public ceremony. From the main entertainment stage MCs Stephen Oates and Sarah Lambourne, who arrived on matching Segways, are currently conducting family games including camp handbag throwing. So far the event has been well behaved and St John Ambulance representatives report they have only had to deal with a few minor issues. 4.00PM: Prime Minister Helen Clark's speech to Auckland's Big Gay Out has been greeted with cheers and a rush forward to the stage. Throngs of picnickers at the flagship Hero Festival event, now estimated by the police at 12,000 strong, surged forward to the main entertainment stage when the Prime Minister appeared a few minutes ago. She spoke for three minutes on how much she enjoyed yesterday's Civil Union ceremony of gay cabinet minister Chris Carter and his partner Peter Kaiser, and on how she has appreciated the parliamentary contribution of transgender MP Georgina Beyer, who leaves Parliament shortly. In step with other speeches delivered today, the PM reflected positively on the diversity which makes up the population of New Zealand. At the end of her speech drag divas Buffy and Bimbo led the enthusiastic crowd in three cheers for the PM. The weather for the event has remained lushly warm and humid all day, with clouds only now reappearing and not threatening rain. Groups of gay men and lesbians and families have clustered throughout the park or strolled amongst the wide variety of attractions. In common with previous Big Gay Outs many children have enjoyed the day and it appears that even more than the usual number of picnickers have brought their dogs along, with no untoward incidents. 6.30PM: As the Auckland summer sun heads towards the western Waitakere Ranges around four thousand Big Gay Out enthusiasts continue to dance, sway and chat into the evening. Lead organiser for the Hero Festival event, Larry Jenkins of the NZ AIDS Foundation, says he is thrilled with the way the day went. It's been a wonderful day, very special and a delight," he said finally relaxing outside the VIP tent with a glass of wine and a few friends including the violently pink and white Miss K. The Police report that there were no arrests or behaviour problems, "unusual for a crowd this size" where alcohol and high spirits often mixed. St John ambulance likewise report no significant medical or first aid problems amongst the estimated 12,000 picnickers. Politicians were also on their best behaviour, spotted amongst the throng were MPs Judith Tizard (Minister for Auckland Affairs), Winnie Laban (Labour, Mana), Wayne Mapp (National, North Shore), Jonathan Coleman (National, Northcote), as well as National leader John Key and PM Helen Clark. Key stated his, and his party's, commitment to diversity in the coming years and praised the work of the NZ AIDS Foundation which for four years has organised the Big Gay Out for the Hero Festival. However his speech atracted a mixture of cheers and boos compared to the unanimous enthusiasm expressed after the Prime Minister's speech. Mayor Dick Hubbard also attended and special guests were gay cabinet minister Chris Carter and his partner of 33 years Peter Kaiser, fresh from their Civil Union ceremony yesterday. The pair cut a two-tiered rainbow decorated cake in the VIP enclosure. Entertainment through the afternoon and early evening has been provided by a variety of performers, including the temporarily re-formed BoyBand, lesbo-rock groups and a slew of drag artistes. Performance artists worked the crowd, most notably Kneel Halt clad all over in a slick gold costume representing an Oscar statuette, complete with podium. Stall holders report booming trade and without exception folks from Auckland and further afield told reporters they were having a wonderful day. The Hero festival continues this coming week and culminates in the Hero party in a fortnight. Videos of Chris Carter and Helen Clark's speeches at the Big Gay Out are available to view on the links below. One attendee's video picture montage of the event is shown below. reporters - 11th February 2007    

Credit: reporters

First published: Sunday, 11th February 2007 - 12:00pm

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