6 min

Capital Pride brings the sparkle back to Ottawa

An overview of Pride week, 2014

Capital Pride is back for its 29th festival in Ottawa. Credit: Ben Welland

Capital Pride is back. The 29th annual festival, which runs for 10 days, brings rainbows, glitter and a host of parties and events to Ottawa. The festivities kick off tonight with a gala at the Museum of Nature.

In addition to tried and true favourites like the parade and community fair, this year organizers have added some exciting new programming to the mix including international films, an educational conference and a visit from the ladies of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

With around 40 events taking place during Pride week it’s probably not possible to take in every one. With that in mind, here is Xtra’s overview of the must-see events of Capital Pride:

Nature Nocturne: Pride Edition – Fri Aug 15, 8 pm to 12 am, Canadian Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod Street, Tickets $20, 19+

Unleash your inner beast at the Museum of Nature. This adults-only party is complete with DJs, a dance floor, and 12 cash bars throughout the building. 

“Nature Nocturne was born from this observation that adults, especially young adults, don’t typically visit museums on their own or for themselves,” says Cynthia Iburg, adult program project lead at the Museum of Nature. With no kids in sight, adults at a Nocturne event are free to explore the exhibits and get up close with the interactive elements. The museum will also host the traditional Pride launch events including the step-down ceremony.

City of Ottawa Flag Raising tour – Mon Aug 18, various times and locations

The city will be full of rainbows as Ottawa’s public services show their support for the LGBT community. Rainbow flag raisings will occur throughout the city, culminating in a ceremony at City Hall to mark the official start of Pride week.

“I started raising the flag the first time I was mayor back in the 1980s,” says Mayor Jim Watson, who will raise the flag at City Hall. “I think it’s important that the mayor and city councillors and chiefs of police and fire and paramedic show their support for the GLBTQ community, not just during Pride week but throughout the year.” Watson also says he doesn’t understand why Toronto’s Mayor Ford doesn’t participate in Pride events.

The day starts early with a 6am pancake breakfast at the Ottawa Police headquarters (474 Elgin Street), followed by flag raisings at OC Transpo, bylaw, fire, and paramedic headquarters before wrapping up at City Hall (110 Laurier Ave.) A double-decker Pride bus will be available to shuttle revelers to each event.

Pride International Film Nights – Aug 18, 19, 20 ByTowne Cinema, 325 Rideau Street, tickets $10; Aug 22, 8 pm at Bank and Gilmour, free

This year Pride will explore some of the films to come out of the international LGBT community. Screenings will be held at the ByTowne Cinema in partnership with the Dutch, Argentine and Swedish embassies. “How we see it is it’s a question of education, community building, and celebration,” says Britt Bengtsson, press and culture officer with the Embassy of Sweden.

The films to be screened include Boys (Aug 20), a coming of age story about young love presented by the Dutch Embassy; Mia (Aug 19), presented by the Embassy of Argentina, which follows the story of a transgender woman in Buenos Aires; Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves (Aug 18), a mini-series following the lives of a gay couple in Stockholm at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, presented by the Swedish Embassy; and, a special Village Movie Night screening of To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (Aug 22), a campy classic that follows the escapades of a trio of drag queens stranded in a small town, presented by the American Embassy and the Bank Street BIA.

Free to Learn GLBT+ Conference – Wed Aug 20, 3 to 10 pm, Extended Stay Ottawa, 141 Cooper Street, Free

Another new Pride initiative this year is the Free to Learn GLBT+ conference, which will feature Stephanie Battaglino, an American transgender activist and businesswoman, and mountaineer and LGBT sports activist Cason Crane.

Organizer Stephanie Lavergne says that in addition to lectures, the conference will also include workshops given by community partners followed by a reception where attendees can mingle with the speakers. “Our clear view this year was to bring the festival back to the community,” she says. “We really wanted to bring it down more to a smaller scale.”

“It’s all about education,” says keynote speaker Battaglino. “The need for education is great, [and] the need for education is ongoing.” She says she hopes the conference will be a teaching moment for attendees, inspiring them to be better allies. 

Human Rights Vigil – Thurs Aug 21, 8 pm, Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument, Elgin & Lisgar

Pride is a time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to remember those in our communities who don’t yet have full human rights. Held every year at the Human Rights monument on Elgin Street, the Human Rights Vigil is a chance for Ottawa’s queer community to come together in solidarity and remembrance.

Trans activist Stephanie Battaglino will also be hosting the vigil, which she says is an important time to remember the struggles of those in the transgender community. “I see that very much as another transgender day of remembrance in many respects,” she says. “At the end of the day we all need to be respected as human beings.”

This year the vigil will focus on the theme of Pride, ‘free to love’, and what that means for LGBT people around the world.

Rainbow Party – Fri Aug 22, 10 pm – 2 am, Barrymore’s Music Hall, 323 Bank Street, $25, 19+

Hot on the heels of their star-studded Glow Fair, the Bank Street BIA is pumping up the party atmosphere in Ottawa. For this year’s Pride they’ve resurrected the Rainbow Party, turning it into an evening of high-powered fun at Barrymore’s

“We’re going to try to jazz it up a little bit,” says Bank Street BIA head Christine Leadman. “Barrymore’s is such a cool building inside . . . I think that for this type of [event] it’s perfect. We’re really excited about the Rainbow Party coming back.”

Popular Montreal DJ Stephan Grondin (who also plays the main stage) will be spinning beats, and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Courtney Act will add a touch of glamour to the evening. The party is 19+ and provides the perfect opportunity to dance the night away.

Capital Pride Parade – Sun Aug 24, 1 pm, starts at Bank and Gladstone, ends at Marion Dewar Plaza, 110 Laurier Ave.

Pride just wouldn’t be Pride without a parade. The brightest gem in the Capital Pride tiara is back in full force this year, winding its way down Bank from Gladstone and ending up at City Hall. Parade coordinator Tova Larsen says she expects a bigger and better turnout this year, and says to keep an eye out for floats from the ACO and Beau’s Beer.

For only the second time in Ottawa, the parade will be making its way through the official Gay Village. “I know for the community it means a lot to have it in the Village,” Larsen says. “It’s very, very symbolic. It’s the main reason that I pushed so hard last year to change the parade route.” Mayor Jim Watson also says he thinks the Bank Street route is a much better fit for the parade.  

For those looking to stake out a sweet spot to watch the parade go by, Larsen’s tip is to claim a place on Bank Street after James but before Laurier, and to avoid congested areas at the beginning and end of the route.

Capital Pride Community Fair – Sun Aug 24, 2 pm, Marion Dewar Plaza, 110 Laurier Ave., $5 admission

The community fair is a throwback to a time when Pride was little more than a picnic. Taking over Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall, it’s a spot for vendors to set up shop and community organizations to raise awareness about their services.

 “The Community fair really is an important part of Pride because it gives businesses and community groups the opportunity to come together and promote [and] celebrate what they do year round for the LGBT community,” says community fair organizer Ashley Blackwood. This year she says familiar faces including Bruce House, the Ottawa Senior Pride Network, and the Ottawa Frontrunners will have booths at the fair, as well as small business owners and pet rescue groups.

Capital Pride Main Stage – Sat Aug 23, 6: 30 to 11:30 pm; Sun Aug 24, 2 to 11:30 pm, Marion Dewar Plaza, 110 Laurier Ave., $10 on Saturday with re-admission, $5 on Sunday

This year production company House of SAS is producing the Capital Pride main stage.

Kicking off the entertainment on Saturday is a major event for Ottawa; RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons will see queens from past cycles, including season six winner Bianca Del Rio, duking it out on stage. “The show is going to be incredible,” says producer Sebastien Provost.

Some of the big names gracing the stage on Sunday include international sensation Amanda Lepore, acclaimed Canadian DJ Stephan Grondin, rapper Cazwell, and Grammy winner Hex Hector. In terms of local talent, look for some drag king action from the Capital Kings, and burlesque from Capital Tease.

“I really want to keep that energy going, and I’m trying to tell a story with the entertainment,” says Provost. “What you’re going to see . . . is a highly polished show that will really build on the energy that the parade will give people.”