IT'S not that long ago that the annual Mardis Gras parade down Sydney's Oxford Street seemed a huge deal.
The parade attracted wall-to-wall coverage in the days leading up to it as newspapers, television and radio reporters recognised the opportunity to stir the pot.
For every person who was happy to welcome Mardi Gras and tell the world what a wonderful celebration of love it really was, journalists were easily able to find someone else ready to angrily decry the parade as a show of ungodly debauchery that was the beginning of the end for our society.
No longer, it seems, and that's something to celebrate in itself.
Mardi Gras is still a wonderful celebration but it does not seem to provoke the same range of heated feelings it once did.
The crowds are probably not as big as they used to be and the coverage is not quite as breathless, but the parade itself is still a powerful statement from a community that's had to fight harder than most for acceptance.
How great is it, then, that even regional centres like Bathurst are now joining in the fun and spirit of Mardi Gras?
Keystone 1889 on Keppel Street will host its own Mardi Gras party on February 29 and the Bathurst celebration will be included in the SBS coverage of the Sydney parade through a live cross to our city.
That's an opportunity for Bathurst to present another side of our community to the world, showing us as an inclusive, cosmopolitan city that has far more to offer than just a race track.
Sadly, bigotry is not yet dead and there will always be those who seek to denigrate people on the basis of sexuality.
But we'd hope there are fewer bigots now than 10 years ago, and in another 10 years there will (hopefully) be fewer again.
It's been a long road to get to this point of inclusion and there is still some way yet to go. But every step we take now is a step in the right direction.