2 min

Capital Pride gears up for launch

As Ottawa’s Pride draws ever nearer, is the new board ready?

Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Catherine McKenney and Capital Pride chair Tammy Dopson pose following the Pride festival’s kickoff media event on Aug 6, 2015 at Ottawa City Hall. Credit: Marco Vigliotti

After a rocky start, it looks like Capital Pride is finally ready to kick things off.

The annual celebration of the city’s LGBT community is seeking to rebound from a turbulent past year that saw its previous organizing body declare bankruptcy amid cost overruns and issues with unpaid suppliers.

At a media launch on Aug 6, 2015, Capital Pride chair Tammy Dopson was on hand to officially begin the Pride festivities and walk attendees through the highlights that this year’s Pride, running from Aug 17 to 23, will bring.

“Bringing the celebration back to Bank Street – where our community village is located – was paramount to our team this year,” Dopson says. “A new parade route that starts and ends in our village will help to keep with the momentum in the area.”

The new parade route will begin at Bank and Gladstone at 1pm and end at Bank and Somerset at 3pm. The route travels through Gladstone onto Kent, before moving north along Kent onto Laurier, and then finally south on Bank to Somerset.

Capital Pride is also seeking to pay tribute to its rich history by naming as grand marshals, for the event, all of the community members who had previously served in that role over the years. Those former marshals who are still available to do so will lead the parade on Aug 29.

“We felt it was paramount that we find a way to honour . . . the many people who helped brings us here,” Dopson says. “We wanted to give our recognition to those many brave community members who helped make it easier for all us to live our lives more freely and with pride every day.”

Although it’s the centrepiece of the celebrations, the parade is only one of the 30 events set to take place throughout the six-day festival. Revelers can also take in movie nights, cabaret performances, boat parties and drag shows, among other events.

These diverse festive gatherings also provide crucial outreach opportunities, especially for younger members of the city’s diverse LGBT community, says Councillor Catherine McKenney, the first openly LGBT woman elected to Ottawa city council.

“We have to remember it [Pride] is also a place where people can connect, where . . . youth or someone [who] is having a tough time can connect with our community. We have to keep that in mind, we do play a very important role,” she says, noting that she became intimately involved with helping to revive the festival almost immediately after being elected last October.

Mayor Watson praised the Bank Street BIA, the city and the LGBT community for working together to ensure the parade would continue, saying it would’ve been wrong to abandon the festival after one year of financial hardship.

“What happened last year was challenging for the whole community and it was disappointing, but we had 28 years of great Pride festivals and we had one year that had some economic challenges, so to simply turn our back on the whole GLBT community and the Pride week was the wrong thing to do,” he says, noting that the festival would receive a $37,000 grant from the city through the Bank Street BIA.

The financial support totals the same amount last year’s Pride received from the city.

Thankfully, City Hall is no stranger to managing difficulties at the organizing bodies of its most popular festivals. Several years ago, the city’s tulip festival ran into similarly severe financial issues, but was provided assistance to regain its footing, Watson says.

“We didn’t allow that festival to fail and we weren’t going to allow the Pride festival to fail,” he says, adding that Pride remains a significant boon for the city’s tourism industry. “I think the city would be a poorer place if we didn’t have these kinds of festivals, whether it’s Pride or tulip.”