by Scott Hayes
There are a lot of reasons to be proud, and reaching the 35th anniversary is just one of them.
Edmonton's Pride Festival is now on for the LGBTQ community, but it isn't only for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, or their allies. It's a celebration of being able to celebrate in the first place.
"It just shows that there's so much support out there … and it keeps growing every year," explained Emil Tiedemann, communications director for the festival.
"It shows that more and more people are accepting and understanding. It shows that we're not going to stop, just because we've accomplished a lot of things over the years – we've gotten new rights and equality – it doesn't mean that we're going to stop and let things backtrack from here. We're just going to keep showing our pride and showing that there's plenty of us out there."
With that in mind, the party kicks off in a big way today with the Pride Parade, the colourful public event that most people are familiar with. It brings families and friends arm-in-arm out for a display unlike any other that the city has to offer.
This will be the third year in a row that Terry Soetaert has taken his family to the parade. He has one daughter who takes part in one contingent of the parade while his others stand with him on the sidelines, cheering her on and enjoying the spectacle. He stressed that Edmonton's parade is friendlier to a general audience than Toronto's notably flamboyant and somewhat exhibitionist parade that leaves many onlookers wide-eyed and red-faced.
"Everything stays fun and tasteful," he said, adding that the scope of the parade is enough to capture everyone's attention.
"It is pretty big! We were there for an hour and a half just with constant things going by, everything from clubs and churches, political leaders, schools, bands … everything!"
The parade gets going at 11 a.m. on Whyte at 108th Street, turning north at 104th Street and ending up at End of Steel Park. That's where Pride in the Park will follow with vendors and live entertainment on the TD Main Stage, the 91.7 The Bounce stage, a Family Fun Zone and an air bag jump.
Tiedemann reminded everyone that the event is set to return to Whyte Avenue for the first time in many years.
"That's where it all started. I think everyone is excited about the parade. They want to see the people and they want to walk along."
But Pride isn't just about the parade. The entire festival actually started yesterday with a recycled art installation along Whyte, a screening of the movie Tru Love at Metro Cinema, and the We are Here Queer History Project at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
"It will showcase the history of LGBTQ in Edmonton: the struggles, the triumphs, all the stories … everything you can think of is going to be there," Tiedemann said of the exhibit. It will feature photos, posters, newspaper clippings, personal mementoes, and more. A good introduction to the show can be found online at edmontonqueerhistoryproject.wordpress.com.
Other events include the first ever YEG Women and Trans mini festival and march tomorrow (featuring Edmonton neo-soul pop singer Althea Cunningham and Calgary's celebrated singer/songwriter Rae Spoon) as well as a play called Undercovered that will be performed at the Stanley Milner Library. It tells the story of the police raid at the Pisces bathhouse, an event that sparked the creation of the Pride Festival in the first place.
Tiedemann also mentioned the Rainbow Effect, a souvenir commemorative magazine that we've all put together. It costs $15 and all proceeds go to support the Pride Festival in 2016 and for years to come.
"It's just full of awesome stories and interviews and photos of the queer history here in Edmonton."
There are numerous other facets of the celebration that will all run until June 25. People can see the entire schedule and learn more about Pride at www.edmontonpride.ca.
This city won't be left out either. For the first time, St. Albert Pride will have its own event in conjunction with the larger festival with its neighbour to the south.
"The idea is just to have a family-friendly event that really shows the support for the LGBTQ and recognize that St. Albert is an inclusive community," explained co-organizer and city councillor Tim Osborne.
Details are still being worked out but it will be held on Saturday, June 20 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Lions Park. Organizers are hoping to sign up performers and other entertainment plus organizations that offer information, resources and services to the LGBTQ community.
"We'd like to have some representation in our own community to show St. Albert that being LGBTQ is okay and that we support them," added Soetaert. "I just want people to come out and see that there both is support for the ones who need it and for people who want to come and understand."
Details can be found at www.stalbertpride.ca.