2 min

Après parade, le déluge

Lower numbers, higher spirits

Credit: Jan Becker

When Ayse Turak took the job as Pride Toronto co-chair this year, she hardly expected to find herself on the big day running around in the rain gathering up tables.

“Everybody at the community fair left in the middle of the downpour,” says Turak, who filled in several volunteer gaps over the course of the weekend.

After a couple of banner years with record attendance, Turak picked a tough year to take charge of the event. Yes, numbers were down post-SARS, and yes, there was a downpour post-parade. But Turak says the event was still a winner in terms of fun – and even financially.

“The energy was great this year. I think the crowds during the day were less, but people were in good spirits,” she says.

Though Pride Toronto won’t have hard numbers until the fall, it doesn’t look like the decline in attendance hurt the fundraising beer gardens much. It was that worry that sent organizers begging to governments for money (which in the end netted them about $260,000 – about $200,000 more than they’ve received in the past).

“The lack of crowds on the street gave us cause for concern, we had concerns that SARS would bring our revenue down, but that didn’t happen,” says Turak.

Fellow co-chair Kyle Knoeck estimates that there were between 8,000 and 10,000 people in the parade; he doesn’t think the number of floats was down this year due to a price hike for corporate entry fees.

“Different companies make different decisions for different reasons,” says Knoeck.

Aside from the rain, there were fewer incidents at Pride this year, says Knoeck. The police didn’t arrest nudist marchers, although cops did make their presence felt.

“Two officers came to our booth and stated the position that they were not going to make any arrests,” says Richard Westgate, a member of the group Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity (TNT MEN), who was arrested for marching naked in the parade last year. The charges were withdrawn.

“They did say they were going to videotape us and if there’s anything that they think is illegal, they would send a package to the Attorney General Of Ontario. They didn’t take names. I don’t know what it all means,” says Westgate. In the end about a dozen people marched with TNT MEN, mostly naked.

“We had a slightly smaller group than last year,” says Westgate.