3 min

Back to basics

Pride Society retracts Plaza of Nations plan

Credit: Xtra West files

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) has withdrawn a proposal that would have moved the 2005 Pride Parade and festival out of the West End for the first time in Pride’s 27-year history.

After a community uproar, the VPS announced this year’s parade will follow the traditional route along Denman and Beach Sts, and the festival will be held at the Sunset Beach site, after all.

“I’m ecstatic,” says local personality Joan-E. “We have the most beautiful parade route in the world and we really have to keep the existing route.”

Last month, the VPS announced a plan that would have had the parade start at the corner of Granville St and Pacific Blvd and move along Pacific to the Plaza of Nations where the festival would be held.

VPS treasurer Barry Piersdorff resigned because of his concerns the VPS would lose money if the Plaza of Nations plan moved forward. The VPS struggled to emerge from a $107,000 debt two years ago and has been debt free since last year.

When the VPS announced its Plaza of Nations plan, community members called a meeting at the West End Community Centre Mar 29, where they voiced their concerns about the move. Seventy-five people, including media, attended.

Moving the parade and festival out of the West End to the proposed route would be like “inviting people over to see a beautiful home and showing them only the garage,” said Joan-E.

Some community members felt the VPS had moved forward with the Plaza of Nations plan without enough public consultation.

VPS directors countered that they felt they needed to press forward with what they thought was the best plan because community participation had been so low at past VPS meetings.

VPS president Shawn Ewing said the Pride events had physically outgrown their traditional sites and the move was designed to accommodate larger crowds and to attract greater sponsorship participation.

There was a great deal of support at the community meeting for the effort the VPS had made on the arrangements so far. Although emotions ran high, with some speakers in tears, the tone of the meeting was largely respectful and constructive.

“Although we believed in what the VPS was doing, the community spoke and sent a very clear message and we’ll follow their wishes,” said Ewing later.

She says now the VPS is concentrating on this year’s festivities with the hopes that more community members will get involved and stay involved. “Pride is growing and we need to talk about how that’s going to happen,” she says.

Council approved the traditional parade route and festival location on Mar 31.

VPS media relations director Steven Schelling says none of the sponsors who signed on to support Pride at the Plaza of Nations have withdrawn their support because of the change back to the traditional parade route and festival site.

Despite the return to the original parade route, Piersdorff is not coming back.

Subsequent to the Mar 29 meeting, the VPS filled three vacant board seats, including the treasurer role left empty by Piersdorff’s departure. New VPS treasurer Carol O’Dell has been a member of the VPS for many years. She is a chartered accountant, runs her own accounting firm and hosts Co-op Radio’s the Lesbian Show.

“My plan is to make sure the VPS is fiscally responsible and that they maintain transparency with their finances,” says O’Dell. “There are no secrets with Vancouver Pride and debt issues will not surface again. From what I can see so far, the VPS is sticking to their budget like glue.”

Of the outrage over the parade route and festival location, O’Dell says, “I think the community is growing and will continue to grow. Eventually we’re going to have to address the question of where we’re going to put all these people.”

Besides O’Dell, new VPS board members are consultant and globetrotter Caryl Dolinko who will act as sponsorship chair, and community member Ray Lam.

At the Mar 29 meeting, 26 people contributed their names to a volunteer list. Ewing says those volunteers have not been contacted yet, but that the VPS will be in touch with them soon. “We’re really hopeful that we’ll get more community participation than we’ve had in the past,” she says. “It’s going to be a good Pride.”

Ewing is ambivalent about the imbroglio surrounding the parade move announcement. “At the end of the day the board is looking at it as a positive thing,” she says. “But after all the work and the ideas that went into the Plaza of Nations proposal, it was a good plan.”

No Turning Back is the theme for Vancouver Pride 2005. The parade will start at noon Sun, Jul 31 at the corner of Denman and Barclay Sts.