Where: Nimbin, New South Wales, Australia
When: Late April/May
Happenings: Hemp Harvest Ball, Parade and Cannabis Cup in the name of legalising the weed
Join In: Drive the Kombi Konvoy, or why not try bong throwing at the Hemp Olympics?
Nimbin, just inland from Byron Bay in far northern New South Wales is home to a thriving counter-culture and is a favourite destination of travellers seeking eco-friendly and alternative lifestyle at any time of year. Shops and houses are painted in lurid psychedelic swirls; mellow, dreadlocked hippies front music and craft shops. For a truly mind-bending experience though, people of all ages, backgrounds and persuasions descend upon this tiny town towards the end of April/ beginning of May for the annual Mardi Grass Festival.
Attended by more than 10,000 people, the festival kicks off every year with the Kombi Konvoy. A winding trail of decorated Kombi vans makes its way from nearby Lismore and is led by the Olympic torch bearer who, on arrival in Nimbin, lights the eternal flame in memory of the victims of drug prohibition policies. And from these beginnings spirals a weekend of completely kooky events including a Hemp Harvest Ball and Mardi Grass Parade lead by fire dancers, jugglers, drummers, poets, musicians and fairies.
Belying popular belief that grass causes you to lose your motivation, the Hemp Olympics sees participants running in joint-passing relays, demonstrating their skill at bong-throwing and rolling joints in a matter of seconds. And for the “real” sporting heroes, the Growers Iron Person Event has competitors running up steep hills with heavy bags of fertiliser.
The event ends with the Cannabis Cup, to which coveted tickets are raffled over the course of the preceding few days. The lucky winners sample a selection of the finest grass, from which they will eventually select a winner. For those who don’ t get lucky with a ticket – don’t worry. There’s plenty out there to get you – and keep you – in chilled-out bliss.
History of the Mardi Grass
Traditionally the home of the Bundjalung tribe of Aborigines, a century of logging and the introduction of cattle had severely depleted Nimbin’s resources and left it on the brink of ruin – until a group of alternative students arrived and chose the town as the site for Aquarius Festival of 1973. From these unimpressive beginnings has grown a colourful, vibrant, environmentally aware and happily subversive community that began actively campaigning against drug prohibition laws in the 1980s and hosted the first Mardi Grass in 1993.
Despite the non-stop entertainment and readily available weed, organisers are quick to point out that this event is not just about getting stoned and seeing the world through kaleidoscope eyes. There is a political purpose, and what it’s really about is policy reform and the legalisation of cannabis. The police work in co-operation with organisers to ensure its harmonious running, tolerating the open defiance of current laws, healthcare experts are on hand to address concerns surrounding the use of cannabis and politicians and academics attend seminars and talks in the lead up to the event.
Nimbin Mardi Grass
For more information, dates and plans for the coming year, check out the official Nimbin Mardi Grass site.
Nimbin Hemp Embassy
Learn more about the work of the organisers of the event.
Article By Sarah Rodrigues
main image: 2008 Cannabis Law Reform Rally, Mardigrass, Nimbin, By John Moss – self-made, Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17646114