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Moomba a rival to Sydney's Mardi Gras or Rio's Carnivale? Surely that's one of the cruellest jokes.

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Melbourne soaks up the sun at Moomba

More than 120,000 people attend Moomba.

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WHAT was it Wordsworth wrote - ''I wandered lonely as a crowd''? He must have tweeted that (using his iQuill, no doubt) while stuck in a hansom cab on his way home from the Moomba parade, an event seemingly designed for the sole purpose of turning jolly humanists into agoraphobic misanthropes.

It is surely one of the cruellest jokes in civic lore that Melbourne's rival to Sydney's Mardi Gras, to London's Notting Hill Carnival, to Rio's Carnivale is sold as a fun day out for the whole family. Unless, of course, standing on a footpath looking at the back of someone's head is your family's idea of fun.

Stuck in a pedestrian traffic snarl that didn't so much snake as snail its way from Federation Square to the southern end of the National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road, all those parents with strollers looked to be having an absolute ball. No, really. Maybe it was the sunstroke.

. Click for more photos

2012 Moomba Parade

Thousands of people lined St Kilda Road to watch a procession of floats, dancers and street performers in the Moomba parade celebrating community, food and culture through the theme 'Melbourne is delicious' as part of the Melbourne Moomba Festival. Photo: Paul Rovere

What a pity, then, that the parade didn't get anywhere near the stretch of pavement that so many thousands had occupied in the mistaken belief they might catch a glimpse of some dancing morsel in this food-and-drink themed celebration. News that the route had been truncated as the result of ''improvements'' to Swanston Street seemed not to have filtered this far north.

The kids, meanwhile, were soaking up the atmosphere. ''I can't see,'' came the cry from knee height. ''I've lost my hat,'' said one shoulder-astride toddler. ''I'm hungry.''

Sam and Vicki had made their way in from Prahran to be part of it all, with young tacker safely strapped out of view's way in a stroller. ''I've watched it on TV for 40 years but this is the first time I've actually been to Moomba,'' said Vicki. ''I thought it would be good to bring the little one.''

Moomba king and queen Harry Kewell and Natalie Bassingthwaighte.

Moomba king and queen Harry Kewell and Natalie Bassingthwaighte. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

They were enjoying themselves, even though they'd missed the parade of floats and had no idea the king and queen of Moomba were soccer player Harry Kewell and actor-singer-TV presenter Natalie Bassingthwaighte. ''That guy?'' asked Sam in something close to disgust when informed that his Harryness had been coronated (with a crown fashioned from half a soccer ball, no less). Bassingthwaighte, though, got the thumbs up. ''She's all right. They're a pretty pair at least.''

That split of opinion was echoed around town, fuelled by news that King Harry had cancelled his planned media appearances that morning at short notice. Not in his contract? Awestruck by the occasion? Not much chop at public speaking? No one expects the Agincourt speech, Harry; would it really have hurt so much to pop into The Circle?

The parade itself was headed by a couple of cars bearing Wurundjeri elders; it may not be official state government protocol to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land any longer, but the City of Melbourne is still playing nice.

Next came the Melbourne Dai Loong Association's entry, not a float so much as a ruddy great dragon. Since 1978, this volunteer group has been presenting a Dai Loong (big dragon) for Melbourne's enjoyment, and this one was a doozy, a 60-legged beast of a thing.

Male, too, if this from the association's website is to be believed: ''For males, there are positions for Dragon Legs, Head and Tail Carriers (strong guys!), Weapon and Banner Carriers. For females, there are Lanterns and Animals to carry.''

Further back there were people dressed as grapes and others wearing cones on their heads. There were penny farthings, a tractor covered in flowers and shrubs, and a gigantic blow-up Guy Grossi (not, we trust, as if to suggest the affable restaurateur has an inflated opinion of himself). There was an ancient fire engine, a horse and cart, and the Moom-Bar, a mock cafe on which John Safran was performing barista duties.

The radio and TV personality admitted he'd never pulled a coffee in a professional capacity before, but he wasn't fazed. ''The fact that people really haven't come to see me at all makes this actually pretty relaxing,'' he said.

Still, there was one potentially nervy moment. ''I had to wear a safety harness,'' Safran said. ''And the guy who was attaching it to me told me I'd punked him about 10 years ago on [TV series] Music Jamboree.'' Revenge, like iced coffee, is a dish best served cold, but the punkee was a forgiving type: Safran's harness held.

By 11.40am, the parade had finished its short journey from the Shrine of Remembrance to Southbank Boulevard and the floats were parking opposite the gallery. As a couple of licorices in pink, yellow and black stripes wandered past, a man muttered, ''It takes all sorts''. A fellow wandered up the street carrying a massive carrot. ''Were you in the parade?'' someone asked. ''No, just taking it for a stroll,'' Carrot Man replied chirpily. Pull the other legume, mate.

Back in the St Kilda Road parking lot, a flatbed full of food items was getting jiggy to Kool and the Gang's Celebration. Right behind, the royal float bearing Kewell and the gang was coming to a halt.

Queen Nat leant out from her throne towards the wiremesh, stretching to stroke the hands of her faithful subjects. King Harry stayed in his seat, determined to keep the old good-monarch-bad monarch thing going.

Finally, he got off his throne, stepped down into the street and waved. To lord mayor Robert Doyle. He's a true man of the people, that Harry.

twitter Karl Quinn is on Twitter: @karlkwin

29 comments so far

  • Soccer is my number one sport so maybe i should support this but............ Harry Kewell as king of moomba?????

    Commenter
    shannas31
    Date and time
    March 13, 2012, 7:26AM
    • The writer is accurate! Especially with the parade route.What Melbourne City Council should have mentioned in the media and the Moomba brochure was that:-

      1) You will only get a good view of the parade if you go to the park side only of St Kilda Road.

      2) If you arriving from the Northside you wont get a chance to get to the park side of St Kilda road as its all fenced off.

      3) Contrary to wear people were waiting opposite the arts centre, and there were 100's presuming the parade was coming along there, you wont see a thing.

      4) the parade will only be in one tiny lane way with very little opportunity for viewing on the western side of the fence. (this is where the majority of people were trying to view the parade)

      One had presumed the most logical parade route would have been straight down the middle of St Kilda Road for ultimate viewing for ALL and not the lucky few on the park side. I guess this allowed the trams to run. (The never did when it went down Swanston Street and no one cared).

      Overall it was a dreadfully unprofessional and illogical planning disaster.

      Commenter
      Gordie
      Location
      Tinana
      Date and time
      March 13, 2012, 7:31AM
      • It's a shame that the writer of this article thought it was necessary to put down what is so special to millions of Victorians.

        The Moomba parade is a part of our shared history and deserves so much more than mocking derision.

        Commenter
        Dave
        Location
        Western Suburbs
        Date and time
        March 13, 2012, 7:33AM
        • Millions?

          Srsly?

          Commenter
          Mark
          Location
          Dandenong Ranges
          Date and time
          March 13, 2012, 10:51AM
        • I have lived in Melbourne for over 55 years and I have only seen the Moomba Parade a few times on TV, never in person. The last time I saw it was probably 25-30 years ago when my work place entered a float in the parade.

          I did not even know it was on yesterday. I just did not think of it, to be honest.

          Commenter
          Dexxter
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          March 13, 2012, 6:06PM
      • Who compares the Momba parade to the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney? One is a family outing while the other is an R-rated parade of look-at-me types in torrential rain.

        Commenter
        wofram
        Location
        mel
        Date and time
        March 13, 2012, 7:56AM
        • you can keep moomba and the mass pilgrimage of bogan families from the outer-burbs. families are welcome at mardi gras and whether it's suitable or not depends on how conservative/stuffy/intelligent you are. on the other hand, moomba festival just looks like an icky, exclusive boganfest *shudders*.

          Commenter
          puh-lease
          Location
          not the moomba festival
          Date and time
          March 13, 2012, 1:32PM
        • Puh-lease. Why so touchy? Do you think your some how better than families from the suburbs? Bogan families, or half naked guys in leather? Hanging out along the foreshore for xxx encounters. I know where I'll be taking my childen.

          Commenter
          Highett
          Date and time
          March 13, 2012, 3:57PM
        • Mel - lets just get this straight - who exactly are you referring to? 'Look at me' types in the rain? Gee, they might just think your talking about Melb........

          Commenter
          loff
          Location
          rye
          Date and time
          March 14, 2012, 2:11AM
        • @highett bahaha! well, I made the mistake of riding my bike through the moomba festivities and can only really compare the sight i saw to that of a zoo (don't feed the animals). and boy have you got some mis-conceptions about mardi-gras. then again, bogans from the outer-suburbs don't really understand the term human rights. another great reason for you to stay well away. there really isn't any need for you to leave your little fearful bubble!

          Commenter
          puh-lease
          Location
          not the momba festival
          Date and time
          March 20, 2012, 12:20PM

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