Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Bankfest sure to be a gay Ottawa crowd pleaser

Take over the streets Jul 10

There’ll be a party on Bank St after all this summer. But it won’t be part of Pride, which has shifted its festival to city hall and rescheduled it for Aug 28.

Instead, Bankfest – scheduled for Canada Day and Jul 9-10 – is associated with the Bank St Promenade Business Association, an organization representing the street’s businesses. And it’s being organized by Robin Duetta, who helped organize the last three closures of Bank for Pride.

Duetta says business owners started calling him after Pride’s board decided they had to save money by shifting the festivities off the street. City hall’s charges to Pride for closing the street were just too much to handle again when the group’s debt is already $120,000, Pride’s board reasoned.

But that left local merchants and, most importantly, local gays without one of their favourite parts of the Pride celebration, says Duetta. So he stepped in – reluctantly, he claims.

“I hesitated to get involved for obvious reasons,” he says, hinting at past conflicts within the Pride Committee.

“Many people believe Pride should be here, an expression of urban Pride in a place like this. But any opportunity to get out and party and celebrate is an opportunity worth taking.”

Having a celebration on Bank St like the last three held during Pride “is an important event [for businesses]. . . an important event to our community and important city-wide to members of the Ottawa community.”

Duetta gave it some thought, talked to some people. The result: Bankfest. Associating with the business association keeps costs down – city hall charges them less for services than Pride would have to pay.

It promises to be a hell of a party. The Canada Day party will feature Disco Inferno, along with DJs Patrick Guay and Alain Jackinsky from Montreal. Local live acts will add spice. It’ll be held in the parking lot behind Big Buds at Somerset and Bank Sts, from 11am to 11pm on Jul 1.

The Unified Party will kick off the main festivities Jul 9 from 9pm to 2am. It’s a dance with six DJs from Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, at the Cartier Square Drill Hall.

The party will be mixed, says Duetta – gays and straights. In fact, so will all the Bankfest festivities. “It’s for everyone. No labels, no boundaries.”

But he acknowledges any festival on Bank St has a special connection to the gay community.

“We live there. This is where we do business. A large part of our community calls this district our home.”

And when a festival like this evolves out of previous Pride celebrations, it’s clear that the gay community will take the opportunity to make a claim on our own queer geography.

“It’s not often you get to feel part of a crowd on Bank Street,” laughs Duetta. ” You get a sense of ownership. Every neighbourhood should have a festival like this.”

The biggest crowd of Bankfest will be the street party itself, Duetta says. It’ll be on Jul 10 from 11am to 9pm.

Parks are great places for communities to gather, he notes. But streets offer something unique. “There’s something exciting about having the freedom to be there where cars used to be. With sound echoing off buildings. With half-naked people walking in the streets.”

And what about Pride? Is the street event in competition?

“No. This is two months before their event. We’re not encroaching upon Pride. That would be like saying the Tulip Festival and the Blues Festival shouldn’t be on in the same years.”

It’s just one more party for summer, one more opportunity for gays and others to claim their street for fun, he says.