Pride Calgary’s Sam Casselman is new to the position of board president, but she is bringing life to a group that has been barely breathing in recent months. Elected last autumn at the group’s sparsely attended annual general meeting, she recently announced a date change to Calgary’s annual Pride Week.
Calgary’s Pride celebrations have been rooted in June since the parade formally began in the early 1990s, to commemorate the month of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Pride 2009, in contrast, will take place over the September long weekend, with the Pride Dance being held on Sat, Sep 5 followed by the Pride Parade and Street Gala on Sun, Sep 6. It is estimated that the Pride Parade in 2008 attracted about 4,000 people.
“Weather was one of the big factors in the decision to change the date — we were rained out last Pride and June is just a rainy time of year for Calgary,” says Casselman. “We also wanted to make it more on par with other Canadian Pride celebrations who hold them on long weekends. I often go to Vancouver Pride for that reason.”
Dallas Barnes, Pride Calgary’s secretary, echoes that sentiment. “We want to build our Pride celebration as a destination event that out-of-towners will come to.”
Reactions have been mixed when it came to the date change decision. “Mostly people like the change, but some people have objected to it and they are mad at the lack of community consultation,” says Casselman.
In defence of their decision, Pride Calgary says it is conducting its business with open meetings and encourages attendance from anyone who is interested. Moreover, the committee is looking for more community involvement and board continuity.
“There has been no board transition from last year, which I hear is a trend amongst previous Pride Calgary organizing committees. People just disperse after the event is done and don’t come back. There are no records, it seems money is missing, and we are broke!” Casselman exclaims.
With little continuity from the 2008 board, this year’s Pride Calgary organizing committee was surprised to learn that they were $2,600 in the hole, and not even an incorporated society.
“I found out at the Pride beer garden last year that we were not an official organization — no taxes filed — nothing,” says Barnes. “As for the financial deficit, we are doing simple fundraising things like bottle drives and 50/50 draws at gay events and slowly are beginning to catch up.”
The committee has applied for non-profit society status and is now legally the “Pride Calgary Planning Committee” because a non-gay group whose mandate is civic pride had already taken the name “Pride Calgary.”
“We are putting in sustainability initiatives into the organization so that this situation does not happen again,” says Casselman. “But we need people to come out and help us rebuild the community and I really encourage input from everyone. For me, Pride is our time to celebrate, but it is important [to show] straight people too — they need to see we are here. And the more visible we are, the better it will be to live in Calgary.”