Text Chris Dobney, photos Tree Faerie
There was smoke in the air at MardiGrass but not the sort I was expecting
My first experience of Nimbin was when I arrived there in 1973 as a teenager for the now famous Aquarius Festival, which spurred the hippie settler movement that forever changed this picturesque northern rivers town.
A haze of music and dope smoke wafted over the hills for a week. Even if you weren’t smoking you could get a contact high from the fug.
I’m not sure what I expected from my first MardiGrass, all these years later, but it showed me how much Nimbin has changed.
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I arrived just as S Sorrensen was calling out the winners of the Hemp Olympix (not stoned but I still missed it).
The atmosphere was chilled and friendly, and the evidence of hippie capitalism was on display: from tie-died everything to silicon bongs and ‘scientifically balanced fertilisers’ (I don’t think they’re growing veggies with it).
There were a few hippies in the crowd, including one lone man my age wearing nothing but a lap-lap, but there was a surprising preponderance of mall-wear. Which made me ponder… are hippies finally dying out or is marijuana finally becoming mainstream?
Speaking of which, where was that certain smell that I expected to be wafting on the Nimbin breeze?
Mostly missing in action. It was a bit like the stoner equivalent of the pub with no beer.
I won’t lie and say I didn’t see a single joint being passed around but ironically it seemed there was more alcohol being consumed than weed.
It appeared the self-advertised ‘riot police’ patrolling the town didn’t need to lift a finger to keep the crowd in line.
Eventually I trekked down to the car park where the parade was fast assembling, from whence I could see smoke rising. But it was not what I thought: the Bundjalung parade leaders were conducting a smoking ceremony; the only green stuff they were burning was eucalyptus leaf.
The colourful parade and sunny weather had everyone smiling and chilling – including a couple of the cops –but as I left town I couldn’t help wondering if so many years of waiting for the law to change had taken the edge off what used to be a protest movement.