It looked like it was going to rain. We were putting the finishing touches on the float, testing to see if it could actually hold the weight of gyrating bodies. We weren’t sure how many people the dance floor would support.
Our float was not the prettiest on the block. It was supposed to be a replica of our purple newspaper boxes – with dancers frolicking in the window section.
It was Pride 2001. And despite the float’s thrown-together appearance it actually took months to plan, organize and build.
It’s surprising how even the humblest of floats can take many, many hours to put together-hours we simply don’t have this year.
With our various new projects and changes in staff, not to mention the extra hours needed to put together a gay newspaper at this time of year, we felt that adding a building project to the mix would drive us all to an early grave.
The consensus in the office was clear. Donning construction hats to erect a float while juggling a hefty workload would most likely result in a truly forgettable spectacle.
And we are all a little too proud to be seen dragging our asses behind a dismal float, picking up pieces as they fall off on the journey down Denman and Pacific.
This will be the first Pride Parade that I can remember without a float from Xtra West. The truth is, I’m not that disappointed. I don’t like marching down Denman St feeling like I’m on some sort of asphalt stage!
But it’s not that simple. Another part of me feels like we’re shirking our responsibility.
“What will the community think?” we asked ourselves. “Will they notice our absence and think we don’t care?”
I can’t help but think we owe it to the community. Entering our float in the parade is a way for us to show that we are part of this community and care deeply about it.
But what sort of service would we be doing by pushing ourselves to the limit and throwing together a crappy float-one that any self-respecting fag would be ashamed of?
So we decided to do our part and support the community from the sidelines this year.
We will be there, side-by-side with all of you. Watching the parade, cheering the good floats, sympathizing with those that were obviously in the same boat as us-and appreciating all the Pride Society volunteers who make our celebration possible.
Because we wouldn’t have a Pride Parade without the volunteers.
That’s why we decided to take the money we would have spent on our float and donate it to the Pride Society for its volunteer drive this year. We also donated ad space to get the message out to would-be volunteers, and a flight for two to raffle off at the volunteer thank-you party after Pride.
You see, the Pride Society needs this kind of help to get volunteers to sign up. Last year, only 22 volunteers put on the entire parade and festival-and 11 of them were board members.
Realistically, the Pride Society requires 150 volunteers to ensure the parade assembly, marshalling, set-up and breakdown happen safely and without a hitch.
It astounded me to learn that Calgary easily manages to rustle up 300 or so volunteers for its gay rodeo. Our 22 dedicated volunteers should be proud of the job they did-and the rest of us should ask ourselves if Calgarians are more dedicated to their community than we are.
Once you have given that some thought, you should know that you don’t even have to give up your whole day. A four-hour shift is all the Pride Society asks. You could help with the set-up from 6-10 am, the parade assembly from 8:30 am-12:30 pm, marshalling from 10:30 am-2:30 pm, or help with the breakdown from 6-10 pm.
Imagine the fun you’ll have working with your fellow volunteers and mingling with all the Pride revellers. And after only four hours, you can bugger off and go join the party on the sidelines-just like us.
Happy Pride day!