A record 200 groups were represented in the 2018 Mardi Gras Parade, making it the biggest to date.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

4 Mar 2018 - 11:04 AM  UPDATED 4 Mar 2018 - 11:05 AM

An estimated 300,000 spectators and 12,300 participants made last night's Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade the biggest yet - a fitting celebration for the night's 40th anniversary.

Themed "40 years of evolution", the parade honoured the 78ers who fought police brutality at the first ever march in 1978.

Speaking of the event's enormity, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras CEO Terese Casu said: “The participation of every single person in this year’s special anniversary Parade helped produce a dazzling display of self-expression, reflection and celebration. In its fourth decade, this was our most iconic Parade yet and one that will go down in history."

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The first Mardi Gras march started at 10.30am from Sydney Town Hall, followed by a festival at Taylor Square at 10pm.

She continued: “In total there was a record 200 groups represented in the 2018 Mardi Gras Parade, sharing a stunning array of creative concepts from all walks of LGBTQI life. Beyond the glitter, flamboyance and satire, there were so many floats reminding us of the serious issues. Acceptance, inclusivity, diversity, respect."

“Among this year’s many floats were many paying tribute to the original Mardi Gras marchers, our 78ers, and our 40 year anniversary. Indeed over 200 78ers from all over Australia made their way to Sydney to lead the Parade train with the First Nations float."

Pop superstar Cher quite literally stopped traffic, dropping by the parade route to walk alongside the QANTAS float with CEO Alan Joyce - even stopping to take a selfie with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his wife Lucy, and Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian.

Despite not making an appearance at last year's parade, Turnbull described Mardi Gras as a "wonderful part of Sydney".

He continued: "It's 40 years old and 40 years ago Lucy and I had our first date so our love affair is a result of Mardi Gras," Turnbull said.

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Following the parade, party-goers lined up around the block to see superstar Cher dazzle with an 18-minute set, which included hits "Believe" and "If I Could Turn Back Time".

The after party also included performances by Starley and Seann Miley Moore, and sets by international DJs The Black Madonna, Hannah Holland, Kiddy Smile and Shaun J. Wright.

"I cried with joy for her entire set," one fan shared on Twitter. "I had waited so long to see her."

Join Joel Creasey, Magda Szubanski, Urzila Carlson, and Patrick Abboud for the 40th Annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, airing tonight, March 4 at 8:30pm on SBS.