Record crowds descended on Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens on Sunday for the Midsumma Carnival – the opening event of the 2017 Midsumma Festival. Now in it’s 30th year, the Festival is Melbourne’s largest celebration of queer culture. With over 130 events held over a 3 week period – 2017 is ramping up to be one of the biggest yet! Visit Gay Australia takes a look at ten events worth checking out:

Dolly Di*mond’s Bl*nkety Bl*nks
Chapel Off Chapel: 20 – 28 January
Everyone’s favourite game show hostess, Dolly Diamond, presents a fun-filled night of entertainment with more than a passing nod to a television classic. This will be an unforgettable night of variety, comedy and old-school cabaret entertainment at its best. Each night features six famous faces – much-loved celebrities alongside treasured members of the Australian LGBTI community – all of them helping audience contestants win fabulous prizes. Guests include: Rowena Allen, Rhonda Burchmore, Anthony Callea, Virginia Trioli, Daniel Witthaus, and stars of Kinky Boots, Callum Francis & Toby Francis, just to name a few…

#Dragformation
Chapel Off Chapel: 20 January – 5 February
A striking and fresh photographic exhibition by Photographer Aaron Walker, #Dragformation features his images of the diverse drag spectrum are captured with great sensitivity, offering a rare insight into these leading performance artists. This is a study of the many facets of drag – from it’s subversive and deconstructionist applications, to it’s cultural value within and beyond communities, to it’s meaning and value to the individual and their constructions of self and identity.

I Am My Own Wife
fortyfivedownstairs: 19 January – 5 February
Not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall, playwright Doug Wright (Quills, Grey Gardens) began a conversation with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an elegant and eccentric 65-year-old German transvestite who, against all odds, survived two of the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century, the Nazis and the Communists. After hundreds of hours of interviews Wright emerged with this fascinating and breathtaking story of survival and identity. In this one-man tour de force, Wright uses more than 30 characters – all played here by Ben Gerrard (Molly, Open Slather) – to piece together Charlotte’s controversial life. Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play, I Am My Own Wife is a profound and mesmerizing piece of theatre that should not be missed!

Midsumma Pride March
Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda: Sunday 29 January
Encounter the kilometre-long procession of Victoria’s diverse queer communities as they dance, strut, sing, catwalk, vogue, placard, drag and move together in a celebration of difference, acceptance and equality. Follow the 22nd Pride March as it surges through St Kilda and culminates in an afternoon of festivities at Catani Gardens. Midsumma Pride March is a spectacular act of solidarity in a world where many go without rights, dignity and visibility.

Queer Art Prize Australia
Chapel Off Chapel: continues to 5 February
A new non-acquisitive art prize to celebrate LGBTIQ art achievements in Australia, Queer Art Prize Australia (QAPA) is a non-discriminatory art prize that celebrates works relating to the LGBTIQ community or themes by any artist who resides in Australia or works with those identifying as LGBTIQ.

Rhonda Butchmore’s Fabulous CouTours of Arts Centre Melbourne
Smorgon Family Plaza – Arts Centre Melbourne: 19 January – 5 February
Over the past two years, Melbourne drag icon Rhonda Butchmore (Thomas Jaspers) has taken people on behind-the-scenes tours of Arts Centre Melbourne with her co-host Kyle Minall. Colourful, funny and informative, this exclusive view of spaces usually off-limits to the general public, Rhonda’s Tours are back for a third and final year. Touted as “a thoroughly gratifying, tongue-in-cheek exploration of Arts Centre Melbourne’s secret back passageways and hidden queer culture” – the tour is set to both thrill and delight.

Team Melbourne Sports Festival
Footscray Park & Victoria University Footscray Campus: Saturday 4 February
The Team Melbourne Sports Festival is the ultimate ‘come and try’ day. There will be over 18 LGBTIQ sports showcasing what they do week to week. Participants will be able to try a number of sports and see which they would like to participate in long term. It is a social day with some great activities for all ages. The Sports Festival is in its 6th year and boasts the busiest schedule to date. Come along and try a sport, join the interactive activities or just join the sports groups for the BBQ lunch.

The Merman Dan: Lover of Seamen
The Cellar – The Grace Darling: 19 January – 2 February
Throughout history we’ve heard tales of mysterious siren songs that called from fathoms below to the heart of many a sailor. Come drift away on a nautical journey through songs of love lost, love found and love that would drag you into the dark watery abyss. An evening of musical cabaret exploring life, love and acceptance as a Gay Merman through sea shanties and torch songs from such artists as Tori Amos, Cosmo Jarvis, Tim Buckley and maybe just a splash of Disney. Join the Merman Dan for an intimate evening of cabaret in his candle-lit grotto where he invites you to be… part of his world.

The Sparrow Men
L1 Studios: 27 January – 4 February
Marcus Willis and Andy Balloch (aka The Sparrow Men) explore the lives of real characters, in this hour-long, entirely improvised, two-man comedic play. Starting with only two chairs and two Sparrow Men onstage, this totally unique, never-to-be-repeated experience springs to life each night with a single suggestion from the audience. With no sets and no props, this style of contemporary theatre fluctuates between comedic, sentimental, light-hearted and dramatic. Debuting their first ever full-length performance in Midsumma Festival 2015, The Sparrow Men return as Melbourne’s favourite fast-paced comedy duo.

This Show is Gay
Speakeasy HQ: 19 January – 4 February
Just when you thought he couldn’t get any gayer – he’s back! Filled with homoharmonies, cabaret comedian Dean Arcuri is taking it to a whole nother level of gayety in a cabaret with exclusively queer tunes for his 10th Midsumma. He may not be the Arcuri that won that reality TV show but this IS one Arcuri who can belt out a tune! What will be the gayest song of all time? There’s only one way to find out. Presented as part of Dean Arcuri’s Midsummaversary, be warned, there will be sequins!

The 2017 Midsumma Festival continues to Sunday 5 February. For more information and complete program, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.

Image: Merman Dan – photo by Joel Devereux