MORE COVERAGE: Bendigo Easter 2017
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With its roots in the Chinese community, the Bendigo Easter gala parade has always been a multicultural event.
Diversity was again the overriding theme in Sunday's edition, with representatives from many of the city’s cultural and religious communities joining together on a march down View Street and Pall Mall.
John Richards, who recently moved to Bendigo, walked with other LGBTI residents and said it was an opportunity for same-sex attracted and gender diverse people to unite.
“It’s a town made up of all these groups who work well together… and yet (the queer community) doesn’t feel quite as joined up or as obvious as in places like Daylesford and Kyneton,” Mr Richards said, draped in a rainbow flag.
“It’s to try and bring the community together so if anyone is feeling lonely or isolated, they know there are places to go.”
The colourfully clad participants from Z Fit Studios were also eager to broaden the parade’s appeal, bringing on board their float students from a new, all-abilities dance class.
People living with a disability should not be made to feel different from the rest of the community, dancer Jessica Wiecek said.
“We’re all human being and there’s nothing to differentiate one person from another,”
Parade parties donned Scottish costumes and struck traditional Indonesian instruments in a bid to share their cultures with the thousands who lined city streets.
Neatly uniformed marching bands even brought some American high school flair to proceedings.
Bendigo residents Kevin and Bev Whyte were among the audience and although they could could no longer remember their first festival, they agreed this was the best yet.
“There’s a lot of work in it,” Mrs Whyte said.
“The clothes and everything, there’s more in it. Even in the torchlight (procession).”
More than 120 groups registered to take part in the parades on Easter Saturday and Sunday this year, the most in the festival’s history.
More than a century of Easter festivals is a history well worth celebrating, a respected voice on the story of Bendigo has said.
Bendigo Historical Society president Jim Evans rode in a red ribbon rebellion-themed float on Sunday, marking miners’ peaceful protest in 1853 against gold licence fees.
Mr Evans said Easter traditions were also age-old.
“This is the oldest running festival in the whole of Australia, so we’re very happy to be part of it,” he said.
He also saw some symmetry between the first parade and this year’s event.
More than one century after Bendigo first raised funds for a hospital, the city this year marked the opening of its newest healthcare facility.
Easter was an important time for history tourism in town too, Mr Evans said.
He and his historical society peers conducted bus tours this week for visitors from Charlton and Bordertown.
“We’re lucky these people are interested in Bendigo’s history and that’s what I try to tell them about.”