In terms of growth and organization, this year’s Vancouver Pride celebration was by all accounts among the most successful to date. The full slate of events exhibited at least the same level of quality as last year and there was even a notable addition.
Homopalooza, the largest and most financially risky new element of the celebration, appears at this stage a financial success; it doesn’t so far seem to have saddled the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) with crippling debt.
Homopalooza goers enjoyed the freedom to indulge in booze without being crammed like cattle into fenced enclosures. And this event, at least, was marketed by the VPS as one in which the sensibilities of parents and children didn’t trump the open expression of queer sexualities.
The queer community turned out in good numbers and most people seemed to enjoy it. It was a great start and, if handled well by the VPS, will return with new attractions next year.
As for the Pride Parade, the VPS successfully expanded the ends of the route to help alleviate crowding and to give more room for float staging and tear-down. Despite a small 100-person volunteer force, the parade started on time and moved smoothly and safely with few gaps.
From a journalist’s perpecctive, the VPS has been a pleasure to deal with. VPS President John Boychuk is consistently available and receptive to Xtra West’s reporters, enthusiastically receiving our calls even when we had challenging questions to ask and he was busy working his day job.
Whether or not you share his vision for the future of Vancouver Pride or agree with all the actions of the VPS board, there is a new level of professionalism in the VPS’ dealings with media and sponsors that ought to be applauded.
As with any community group, there are always hard questions and valid criticisms. The trademark issue is one the community needs to discuss and address. We have to find a way to protect Pride from profiteers who want only to make money on the backs of queer people while at the same time ensuring that queer people are free to express their Pride as they see fit. We’ll continue to examine that issue in the pages of Xtra West and I’m confident that the VPS will come to a workable solution.
For now though, the VPS needs our support in correcting one of the double standards the queer community faces at City Hall.
The VPS has applied to have City Council designate Pride as a ‘civic event.’ That designation would mean the City of Vancouver would assume more responsibility for the costs of street closures, policing and cleanup after the parade. It may also remove the restrictions that prevent the closure of Davie St to traffic on Pride Day.
The Celebration of Light has civic event designation with the City of Vancouver committing a whopping $634, 400 in grants and services last year. This year, Pride received a grant of only $7,500.
The final night of the Celebration of Light, Aug 5, which again prevented the VPS from running any events in the West End the night before the Pride Parade, attracted an estimated 400,000 people. The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) reported 350 liquor seizures, 41 arrests, 19 fights, five stabbings, five other assaults, and 22 weapons seizures on that night of fireworks alone with similar lists for each of the other Celebration of Light events.
The Pride Parade drew an estimated 300,000 spectators, Aug 6. There were no reports of any problems by police. In fact, last year VPD Chief Constable Jamie Graham told Xtra West, “There are absolutely no safety issues with the parade; nothing. I don’t recall anything from a policing perspective come up. The things we worry about are heatstroke and kids running into traffic.”
Last year’s Pride festivities brought an estimated $30-million into the city’s economy and the crowd was even bigger this year. It’s time City Hall made a commitment to Pride as an important and welcome civic event.
To tell City Council how you feel about civic event designation for the Pride Parade, visit www.vancouver.ca to find ways to call or e-mail your mayor and city councillors.