3 min

Big Pride changes

East Side Stonewall festival may return Jun 26

Credit: Kevin Teneycke

Turn around and walk proudly the other way. Those are the instructions Pride Parade participants will get this year after the Vancouver Pride Society re-vamps, re-routes and re-schedules the city’s largest parade-and re-introduces the dormant Stonewall festival on The Drive.

Other changes are coming as well. VPS plans, according to an insider, include:

• A 9 am kick-off on Pride Day, Aug 1 with a Sunset Beach memorial breakfast in honour of Terry Wallace, a past VPS board member and community leader who passed away Feb 1;

• A 1 pm start to the Aug 1 Pride Parade, an hour later than in the past. The parade, now the largest civic event in the city after the annual English Bay fireworks competitions, is scheduled to last two hours;

• A re-routing-in fact, reversing-of the Parade route from past years. The new route would leave Sunset Beach and proceed west along Beach Ave and north onto Denman St to Robson St;

• Relocation of the post-parade festival from Sunset Beach to Nelson Park in the residential heart of the West End. The festival will begin at 2 pm;

• The post-parade street fair, established last year, will run again, but start at 5 pm;

• Four nights of music in Alexandra Park overlooking English Bay, timed not to overlap with the fireworks festival;

• The Stonewall festival, shut down for approximately six years, resurrected for Jun 26. That event takes place in Grandview Park on Commercial Drive.

“There’s no harm in doing a few changes,” one Pride insider said. “We’ve got lots of events planned for this year.”

Repeated calls to VPS president Shawn Ewing were not returned before deadline. But in an email, she wrote that details of coming changes will be announced publicly at a Mar 28 open house at the Fountainhead Pub.

Jim Deva, co-owner of Little Sister’s and a Davie Village activist, applauds the board for making the changes. Sometimes change is good, he says.

Deva heard about the changes when the Davie Village business community was consulted several weeks ago. And he’s been encouraging the VPS to take the proposals to the whole community for comment-if not before Pride because time is running out, then after this year’s festivities.

“I think [the changes are] major,” he says. “I have some concerns with some of them.

“If you’re going to do something of this magnitude of change, immediately after the event, there should be a public meeting at which people can say, ‘This worked, that worked, this didn’t work, that was a tragedy‚’ so they really get some feedback before they make it forever,” Deva says.

Deva wants the VPS to set a feedback meeting date for after Pride, and to do it now. “We just have to make sure the control does go back to the community,” Deva cautions.

Not all plans for the Davie Village events are finalized yet, according to the Pride insider.

Gay city councillor Tim Stevenson had heard nothing about the changes until receiving a call from Xtra West. Stevenson is a former director of the VPS and last year stickhandled through city hall a schedule for the Society to pay outstanding debts.

Stevenson points out the challenges of running an all-volunteer Pride organization in a community which is reluctant to get involved.

The community as a whole has taken little ownership in the Pride Society, he says. It was only through the Society’s diligence that the Parade was saved last year, he adds.

Still, he would have like to have heard about the proposals earlier.

“To my knowledge, nothing has been said to council-at least from the political end of things. I would have thought if they had a change of that magnitude, something would have been said.

“Why would they change it completely around? Why would they not want Sunset Beach as their final place?

“I hope this has been thought through,” he adds. “You end up at Robson. Where do you go from there?”

The VPS is planning a membership drive Mar 28 as part of its Pride unveiling for this year.

Anyone interested in signing on to support the Society or with questions about this year’s roster of Pride events can meet directors at the Fountainhead Pub on Davie St that evening.