3 min

Boom or bust?

Pride festival still tallying its finances

Credit: Shawn Scallen

Despite all the odds, this year’s Pride festival was a resounding success.

Things had not looked good in the months leading up to the festival. The entire Pride committee had resigned in April, there was a deficit of close to $50,000, accusations of financial mismanagement and fights with sponsors.

There was tremendous doubt in the community that Pride would even happen. But on Sun, Jul 13, thousands of people lined the streets to watch the 50-float parade glide by and then participated in a day of celebration.

Robin Duetta, who became chair of the Pride committee when a new board was appointed on Apr 14, says everyone pulled together to save the event.

“The community transformed itself into a network of people, organizations and businesses to work together for a common cause.

“In the past, the Pride Committee competed with external organizations for funding,” says Duetta, “This year we worked together in a spirit of cooperation.”

But the festival is not completely out from under the shadow of budgetary concerns.

The committee has paid off about $38,000 of last year’s debt, and is hoping to be forgiven the remaining $12,000 in debts, although some invoices are still coming in from 2002. The committee says that this year’s festival is so far running a deficit of $11,000.

There were successful fundraising events during this year’s Pride. The Big Shiny Ball raised over $6,200 for Bruce House. The Swirl and Twirl was another successful joint fundraiser between the Pride Committee and Pink Triangle Services.

But not every fundraiser was a success this year. For example, Club AWOL did not pay its entire sponsorship fee. “Club AWOL sponsored the Pride Festival for $5,000,” says Duetta, “yet, after their first payment, we did not see another penny from them, even after alternative payment arrangements were made.” Club AWOL also collected a cover charge at the All Night Party on behalf of the Pride Committee, but Duetta laments that they have not seen any of this money either. “We feel that the Pride Committee has a duty to pursue this bad debt.”

The Pride Committee is committed to starting next year’s festival without a deficit, and in the interim are planning to move to modest new office space and minimize expenses.

But during the parade, all those concerns had been put aside, while everyone enjoyed the usual and the unusual.

Were there drag queens in their glittering glory? Check!

Boys in tight white underpants, bears in leather, dykes on bikes? Affirmative, you bet, of course!

Activities for those just coming out? Information booths? Charity fund-raising? Volunteers without whom the rest of us wouldn’t have a great time? “Yep” to all of the above.

The parade had more groups participating than ever. The parade started at the corner of Elgin and Catherine Streets, continued past the Human Rights Monument in front of Parliament Hill and finished at the Bank Street Party. People lined the streets with their lawn chairs, flags and super-soakers. To the crowd’s delight, window washers on the corner of Bank and Laurier turned their hoses on the parade.

Was this year’s Pride Festival as big as last year’s? Some say it was.

How did it compare with Montreal and Toronto? Ok, well now you can just put your ruler away, size queen – it makes some of us shy.

The week-long festival was brimming with events like the raising of the Pride Flag at City Hall, the Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus performance at the NAC, an outdoor movie night, a pub-crawl, a book reading with Darren Greer, a Youth Day BBQ hosted by Pink Triangle Services and the Big Shiny Ball on the terrace of NAC.

Another highlight of this year’s Pride Festival was the boat cruises. In fact, it was hard to gauge who had more fun, the gentlemen on the Cruiseline’s All Male Live Boat Cruise, or the ladies on the Out Stuff / Pride Committee’s Three Hour Women’s Boat Cruise.

When all was said and done, Richard Mahoney, long time Paul Martin supporter and Liberal candidate hopeful for Ottawa Centre, paid for the Sponsors and Volunteers Appreciation Brunch held on the terrace of the Ottawa Congress Centre two weeks after Pride’s conclusion.

This year the committee managed to repair some of the burnt bridges with both Toronto and Montreal’s Pride Committees and formed stronger partnerships within the community. Duetta hopes that many of the board members will throw their hats into the ring and work with next year’s committee.